We’re throwing a Marlalong & Swarfalong Zoom Party! Join us and designer Cecelia Campochiaro on Friday, January 14 at 5 p.m. Eastern. RSVP here and we’ll email a reminder to you along with the Zoom link on the morning of the event. See you there!
—Ann and Kay
Getting to yes.
I’ve always loved the idea of knitting sweaters but have been daunted by the complexity. My attempts in the past have resulted in 1) pieces that did not fit together; 2) a sweater that was so thick and heavy you needed to be in the arctic to wear it; 3) a sweater that fit like a second skin; and 4) a sweater where the bottom ribbing would flip up constantly.
Over the Covid shutdown my friend Catherine Lowe mentored me on how to make a custom sweater for myself, and when I used her techniques and approach, it worked! So, when Kay and Ann asked me to design a sweater for Field Guide No. 19, my usual, “No way, no how, not me” was a little softer. When they added, “Don’t worry, we’ll write the pattern, we’ll handle the sample knitting, you can choose the yarn—you just need to make the design,” it was an offer I could not refuse. It was just the push I needed.
Kay wanted the shape to be close to her beloved Relax pullovers, and I had a range of design goals: easy to knit, easy to finish, great-looking on a range of body types, and a little daring in terms of colors.
I chose to make it in Isager Tvinni doubled. Tvinni is a traditional crispy Northern European yarn in sophisticated colors. When doubled, it’s DK weight, which I think is about right for balancing the effort of knitting and still creating a fabric with some lightness and drape.
It all came together beautifully, don’t you think?
Since the pattern comes in nine sizes, I wanted it to suit all figures and I thought vertical stripes would be just the thing. Thus, the sweater is worked sideways. I did a lot of swatching to work out the colors and the marl sequences, and then the MDK team took my concept, wrote the pattern, and made the sample. I saw the sample iteself for the first time at MDK on October 1!
Colors 10, 2s, 1s, 17s, and 22s in the Field Guide No. 19 sample.
My turn, my palette
While I was in Nashville, I also saw the table with all the Tvinni colors laid out. I have had a long love affair with 23s and was so glad it was among the colors MDK decided to carry. It’s mysteriously gray and green depending on the light—almost neutral—so when I was there, I bought enough of 23s to combine with my extensive Tvinni stash to make my own sweater.
Cecelia’s Spectra Palette 10, 23s, 17s, 22s, 2s
You start by casting on the center of the front or the back, work to the cuff, then return to the center and pick-up-and-knit from the cast on and work to the other cuff. The edge of the cast on makes a nice vertical detail on the centers. When you are knitting you have to track the bottom edge, the top edge, and the color changes, so I made myself a row-by-row checklist. The color changes are easy—marls naturally soften the edge, so you can do it anywhere on a row.
To change colors, I normally take the new strand and hold it with the old for about 5 stitches, trim the tails to about an inch and cut them flush after blocking. This is equivalent to weaving in with a duplicate stitch approach. If you add spit and friction to the old and new strands, it is also called split splicing.
Finishing is designed for simplicity. The bottom border and cuffs are done “in the knitting” as 2-row weltings, which are also helpful for counting rows. The only edge that needs any finishing is the neckline: Pick up and work a row or two and bind off.
There are four seams: cuff to hem and cuff to neck on the left and the right. These can be done as mattress seams or three-needle bind offs, which I prefer. The pick-up-and-knits are done on skinny needles—size 0 is ideal, but any small size is ok—the idea is to not disturb the already formed stitches and to keep the join as small as possible. The knit-purl three needle bind off is more symmetrical than a traditional three-needle bind off and makes an extra-nice finish. You can see my little loops of yellow embroidery thread in the photos. These will help me line up the seams and help me count rows on the arms where I can’t use the welting.
One of the benefits of knitting your own sweater is that you can customize it in terms of colors and shape. I’m making the sixth size based on 10” of ease, with my sleeves a couple inches longer (just add rows before the cuffs), and my body a couple inches shorter (just cast on fewer stitches). My companion colors are dark fuchsia (17s, A), mustard (22s, B), light gray (2s, C), and light blue (10, D).
I waited to finalize color A until I had most of the front half done as the front middle only uses M, B, C, and D. A photo at the top that I posted on Instagram shows all the shades I was considering. I was not sure if I should stay subtle or go bold, but bold fuschia won out and I’m good with that decision. My front is about 70% done and I have yet to start the back, so it’s going to be a little while before I’m done, but I’m enjoying the journey.