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Dear Kay,

Nothing like sitting around the week before a fiber festival thinking, GAH why don’t I have a new sweater to finish under an artificial-yet-compelling-anyway deadline?

With Rhinebeck nigh, I headed straight to Muslin Bag Mountain, aka the considerable pile of Unfinished Objects that has been sitting on my dining table.

At this point, Muslin Bag Mountain is a shrine to incompletion, to process, to hope or sloth. I was happy to excavate Muslin Bag Humulus, where I gleefully discovered that I had only 1.3 sleeves to finish in order to have a new pullover for Rhinebeck.

You’d think I’d invented sleeve knitting. You’d think from my loving embrace of those double-pointed needles that I had forgotten all other kinds of knitting needles. You would have been proud to see how fast I slapped those sleeves into existence.

Things I Noticed Along the Way

This is as simple a top-down yoke sweater as can be imagined. Isabell Kraemer’s Humulus design won the champion laurels for MDK March Mayhem 2018, and it’s great because it’s classic, fun, and knits up fast. The yarn, Jill Draper’s Mohonk, is 100% Cormo.

Thing 1: Contrast. This low-contrast yoke is less contrasty than I’d thought it would be. I love the green, and I love the gray, but the value of these two colors is actually pretty close. Before I began, though, I thought the almost neon vibrancy of the green would carry the day.

It did not!

If I could Photoshop this pullover, I’d dial up the yoke contrast. The lesson here is probably to take a black-and-white photo of your yarn before you embark, to make sure there’s enough light-dark variation that your yoke will show up.

Consider, for example, this yoke in color:

And the same photo, in black and white:

Isn’t that astonishing? It’s a miracle we can see the yoke at all!

Another tip: think about the specifics of the yoke pattern you’re going to make. If the yoke stitch pattern had included broader stretches of uninterrupted green, I think it would have been OK. Stitch patterns that have a lot of single-stitch back and forth require good contrast in order to read properly. Think about an Icelandic sweater and how there are broad swaths of the yoke colors. Then look at this Humulus stitch pattern. See? Each stitch has to be readable.

Thing 2: That stitch at the arm join. Once you finish the body, you return to the armhole stitches that have been sitting on waste yarn. It’s time to pick up those stitches and begin the downward march to the cuff. Isabell encourages us to pick up a stitch or two at the armhole, near the armpitular area to avoid a hole, then knit two stitches together on the following round in order to preserve the stitch count.

As you can see, I get a C-minus in extra armhole-stitch-pickup. This one is no better:

I’ll go back and moodge these weirdies into shape—as I always do, I suck at this—but I hate that I didn’t pick up the extra stitch in an elegant way. I’d welcome tips from all you elegant stitch pickeruppers.

Final observation: if anybody’s examining my armpits that closely, well that’s just your creepy problem not mine!

Thing 3: Blocking. This is my main tip for you. The mighty redemptive power of blocking is never more apparent than in the blocking of colorwork. It takes a significant act of faith to knit an entire sweater where the yoke looks lumpy and irregular.

In most cases, if you’ve been minding your floats and living a virtuous life, all this stuff melts away after a good soak and drying.

The whole sweater falls into place. Before:


The yarn, Jill Draper’s Mohonk, has been a complete joy to knit. I love everything about this yarn: the slightly rustic feel, the subtle shift of the color, the way it loves being blocked.

Now the wait is on for my new low-contrast Mohonk Humulus to dry. Feeling very sweater proud. I got a Rhinebeck sweater. Phew!




  • Thanks for the armhole attachment tip. I ended up with a hole on my Zweig last week and had to knit a few stitches together after I made the ‘mistake ‘.

    • “Design feature!”

  • Ann, I’m curious whether you swatched for color dominance on this one. Normally I hold the second color in my left hand, assuming it will make that color pop, but I just swatched for a pair of gray and yellow mittens both ways and found surprisingly that holding the gray in the left hand made it pop more. I wonder if switching the color dominance in this case would have made the green stand out more.

    • I am confused. When you say you hold the second color in your left hand why would it make that color pop?versus just the difference in color ? Or difference in using one color for background and the other for pattern.what does holding the yarn in the left hand accomplish? I have not made this pattern yet so is the explanation clearer in the pattern? I’m just finishing my first color work pattern Capelet Deja Vu by Donna Palika and loving colorwork , so just wanting to learn more. Thanks

    • That’s so fascinating and counterintuitive. I didn’t swatch for dominance, but my habit is to make the yoke color the dominant one. So now I’m curious what would happen with the colors reversed. They are so close in value that I wonder if that would help.

  • Isn’t it crazy how we have a sweater that is 98% great, but yet we look at the 2% that isn’t?
    We learn from all that we do.

    • Right?! I agree!! It’s always the wabi-sabis that draw my attention

      • MDK: where our motto is “Building a More Adequate Armhole.”

  • I love this pattern and my Humulus, mine is also low-contrast, yet washing made the yellow pop a little more (it’s plant-dyed and for some reason brightens slightly when washed!) And anyway I love it!
    Enjoy Rhinebeck (I’m quite jealous…)

    • Curious if you recall what plant extract was used for the yellow—how surprising!

  • For underarm pickups, check out Suzanne Bryan’s (knitting with Suzanne) You Tube. It’s the best.

    • Sometimes, scrolling through comments you come across one this, and find the exact tip to fix mistakes that you have been looking for forever! Suzanne Bryan`s you tube is brilliant. Thanks for taking to time to let the rest of us in on her channel.

      • Strongly agree! The Suzanne Bryan video easily solves the problem of underarm holes. It’s my “go to” on this issue.

    • Thank you for this! Can’t wait to Solve This Issue!

    • Thanks for the reference. I just realized that I’d subscribed to her channel a while ago, but I haven’t watched any of her videos yet.

    • I agree—she’s my go-to gal!

  • Thanks for all this. Humulus is in my queue and my sweater goal for 2018. (Yarn already purchased, but other priorities were ahead of it). I always seem to have the same armhole issue, but assume no one is looking at my armpits. Still, I would like to correct it. I always try to make it better when I’m weaving in ends, but am never 100% satisfied.

  • My Humulus ended up being high contrast with a maroon base and orange colorwork (orange held in left hand, maroon in right). Probably not the colors many would choose but they are very popular in southwest Virginia where the Virginia Tech Hokies are adored. Love this sweater, and picking up the extra stitches at the underarms is helpful but you have to figure out a way to pick them up that avoids making a new hole…it seems like I did it on the diagonal picking up from the row below and the current row, then pulled one stitch through both loops. Hard to describe!

    • Excellent idea. I also add a twist to some of mine to give “extra” fluff to fill in any possible hole.

      • This is all fascinating. Taking notes madly!

  • The magic of blocking never fails to amaze me. You’d think I’d get it by now, but NOPE. It’s new magic every time.

  • Thanks for this Ann. That black and white photo is especially educational. It

    Since it’s getting chilly up here in New York, I think that the weather will cooperate for your new Rhinebeck sweater. Enjoy the weekend!

    • Thank you, Diane! In Saugerties tonight and it’s 31. My Nashville thermostat has not adjusted at ALL!

  • I’ve heard of and executed the “pick up extra stitches” business many times. But the hole we’re picking up INTO always seems too big … so I’m wondering if anything can be done PRIOR to picking up. As in, prepping that armhole opening better when we make it in the first place.
    So far I haven’t figured it out.
    I can’t wait to see you and your Humulus at Jill’s on Saturday!

    • Exactly! Seems like a recipe for disaster just to poke in there to fish out a new rogue stitch. Will keep researching

      • Scratchin’ my head here….. How about ””’doubling””’ the yarn in the pit areas…..would that cease and desist those holy stitches? Now, this comment is coming from someone who has never made a sweater; LOL!!

  • Your pits may give you fits but your yoke soak is no joke.

    • Hope it’s dry before Rhinebeck is nigh.

  • nice story! having completed my own Humulus, i found all your tips interesting and right on, thank you.

    • So glad you finished yours. I loved making this.

  • LOL@”Muslin Bag Mountain is a shrine to incompletion, to process, to hope or sloth”

    I love reading your posts, Ann! If only my own shrine to incompletion were so centered (I hesitated and decided not to say compact — yours probably is very tiny, but mine definitely is not, and keeps getting bigger), so localized (I hesitated to say organized, but I am attracted to the concept of a single shrine as opposed to my current method of dropping a UFO wherever I happen to be standing at the time) and so all in muslin bags!!

    As for the low contrast issue (and yes, the black and white photo clearly shows that, in a darkened room, you would not be able to see all that beautiful stranded work!), I would outline the yoke motifs in chain stitch, in a color that will separate them. Maybe charcoal gray or dark brown? But definitely not before Rhinebeck, and probably not ever. I think it is beautiful as it stands!

    • I have been on a duplicate stitch bender this summer, and I think you may be on to something. It could look cool to fool around with it.

  • Low contrast is the bee’s knees and the cat’s pajamas. It’s not just the bomb but the bomb diggity. I love your Humulus.

    • Yes! Everything you said Valerie. Love this sweater. It’s 100% great.

  • I love your blogs! I am fairly new to knitting and I learn a lot from them.
    I have this kit and I’m working up the courage to start it. Thanks for the tips.

  • A B&W photo of the colours beside each other — what a great idea! I’m going to an introductory brioche knitting workshop tonight and was told to bring two colours… I’m going to put this into practice right away! Thank you!

  • The original Humulus was low-contrast, too – yellow and grey. To me, that delicacy is one of the charms of the sweater. Embrace it and enjoy!

  • Having knit dozens of top-down sweaters (and a few bottom-up that required the accursed Kitchener join) I have learned a thing or two.
    1. Leave a REALLY LONG tail on the new yarn that you use to knit the sleeve or Kitchener the ends.
    2. Cast on or pick up as many stitches as you need to get the armhole looking filled in. You can always decrease back to the designated stitch count.
    The armpit is a place of great strain, especially if I’m knitting a sweater for my fly fishing husband. However, I’ve had even commercial sweaters open up there. I always back stitch and overstich armpits. I try to keep it smooth and invisible on the right side, but the armpit must be secure.

    • I’m going to needlepoint it on a pillow: “The armpit must be secure.” So good! Thank you for these clever ideas.

      • Also: “The armpit is a place of great strain,”

  • Another way to avoid that armhole hole is to cast on one less stitch and do a M1 on the following row, at the end of the cast on stitches. I learned this from Isabel Kraemer’s site on Ravelry. Interesting 2 solutions to the common problem.

    • So good! Thank you!

  • I’m curious to know how people who lived before Rhinebeck ever got their knitting projects done? Did they send their kids to school naked?

    • This is so hilarious!

  • Thanks for the tips! This sweater is on my list! I have used the back/white photo before, this is quite amazing. Love your colors, even though the contrast is not as great as you might like.

  • Love your tips and tricks. Thanks for sharing your “if I had it to do over again lessons.” It’s just further proof that no longer how long you’ve been knitting, you’re always making mistakes and learning something.

  • Bookmarked! Thank you, Ann – and yes, that b/w photo is ASTONISHING.

  • Currently working on my Humulus. The color lables are mallard (a dark teal) and pumpkin (a rich fall orange) I think the contrast will be lovely. I can’t wait to get if finished up. Almost through the colorwork, after a hiccup of a dropped stitch caused me to rip back to almost the beginning of the colorwork to fix. Have fun in Rhinebeck. JEALOUS!

    • Way to persevere!

  • I have a shrine, too! and I like the subtlety of the color change. It will be a surprise for those you walk up to you.

    • “Is that … a … YOKE?!” Lol!

  • You can fix this. The totally sloppy way is to get a magic marker and color the lite yellow stitch. It is called outlining and you did it when you colored. No one will know unless you tell them. Second do a Kristin Nicholas and embroidery around the lite green stitches with a bright or dark color. It is called duplicate stitch for a reason. This is a no brainer. You are not Martha Stewart, (perfection is not realistic) and there are ALWAYS ways to fix a sweater!

  • To me, the lack of contrast in the yoke is one of the things that makes this sweater so beautiful! So cross that right off your list. Have a ball at Rhinebeck.

  • Love to read the pro’s woes () And tips! It helps us learn and feel not quite so inferior. I’ll also pick up one below from under the armhole and do a twist of the stitch on the needle if it seems to have grown. Kind of acts as a filler. And the b&w is amazing! Just had to use that little trick last week for a tri-colored shawl. Wow, was I way off before the photo! Lol Had to be reminded by a designer though.
    Thanks for sharing your tips and stories. And enjoy Rhinebeck for those of us unable to join you ,other than in spirit!

    • The twisted stitch is such a problem solver.

      • Told this twisted stitch story to my twisted sister this past weekend while visiting. She and I toasted you guys while eating a wonder tenderloin with crinkle cut French fries and tossing down a brew….left the knitting in the car! LOL!!

      • It truly is. Give it a try. Would love to hear your opinion on it!

  • Hi Ann, I found your underarm hole inquiry timely as the other day I stumbled on a YouTube video, “Avoiding Holes at Underarms” by Knitting with Suzanne Bryan. I am definitley going to try her technique as I also had that problem with my Westbourne, got fixed but not as slick as I would have liked it to be.

  • That black and white photo – amazing! I had thought that green would pop too (though I am loving the low contrast here anyway). And the reminder of blocking is so good: I am past the yoke but have the body and sleeves to go on my Sipila sweater, and the yoke looks so bunchy and uneven. I’ve got to march on and trust it will all block out in the end. I’m heading to my first Rhinebeck this weekend- soooooo excited!

  • “Muslin Bag Mountain” had me laughing all day. Thank you. So true! I aspire to muslin bags – mine are still ziplocks. Only the current projects get the fancy project bags.

  • Ann, thanks for this. My own Humulus has one sleeve almost done and a whole one to go. However, and I just read through all the comments to see if anyone else had this problem—the called-for sleeve length is enormously long! I am making it for a daughter for Christmas but think our arm length is similar. I just finished all the decreasing and tried it on, the sleeve measures 14-1/2” from underarm and is almost at wrist bone now! Even if I quit stockinette there and go straight to ribbing, it’s still going to be on the long side. Did anyone else find the sleeves too long? Just checked my row gauge, and it’s spot-on. ?? Thanks!

    • I found the armholes to be long, too. I shortened them a bit because I always do, but they were still long. I wasn’t too worried because I usually turn up the cuffs, but with the colorwork row right before the ribbing that isn’t a great solution as it would cover that up. I just scrunch my long sleeves up and it works, but if I had it to do over again I would shortened the sleeve at least another inch or more.

      • Correction…sleeves, not armholes.

  • My iPhone is a great tool when I’m yarn shopping. I turn on the b/w filter and it’s really helpful for checking contrast. It used to have a “tonal” filter, but iOS updates have replaced that with something less helpful. Oh, well.

    Do you know why one color is dominant in stranded knitting? The one being carried underneath has to reach a little further to get to the needle, which means it’s ever so slightly taller, and therefore bigger. For most people, that’s the one on the left. YMMV!

  • Thanks for this as I hope to knit it next year!!

  • I’ve never finished a knit or crochet sweater; they end up frogged and made into an afghan, thus I’m always looking for the world’s easiest pattern. Ya? LOL!! Now, I’m hoping this Humulus sweater is the one but I get stuck reading all the comments my addle-minded brain will allow, running into words I don’t know the definition of, skipping over to Google to search them out, coming back to finish comments……and I’ve forgotten that I was searching for the world’s easiest sweater pattern!

    LuvUguys! @@

  • can someone help me?? I am stumped on the pattern chart, It doesn’t work out for me. I am on row 3 of the pattern, the row just after the increase. Row one is multiple of 6… I worked that fine with two grey stitches between the cc. I succucefully increased on the increase round, thus creating three stitches now , between the cc. The problem is that the last 8th stitch, ends as a cc but it lands smack on top of the 7th stitch below, instead of one over. I cant reconcile this? How does that 7thcc stich on row one, not end up as the 8th stich on row 3?

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