Bang Out a Sweater Knitalong: A Quick Stopover
January 25, 2016
I love a knitalong. A knitalong is an opportunity for a band of hardy souls to roll up their sleeves and dig into a pattern, parse it good and proper, and debate the details along the way, from cast-on to finishing. A knitalong can result in refinements and even modifications to a pattern, as knitters work out their individual preferences for construction techniques and fit. Knitalongs can go on for weeks or even months of suspenseful, jaw-dropping, real-time knitting.
I’m not talking about that kind of knitalong.
It’s nearly February. The Eastern half of the United States is loaded up with snow. We need a sweater, and we need it now. Wouldn’t it be fun to drop everything and knit a sweater FAST, in time to get good wear out of it this winter? And to compare notes with a bunch of other people who are banging out the same sweater?
Well, I think it would be SUPER FUN.
Thinking about what sweater it should be, my thoughts flew to lopapeysas, the Icelandic sweaters I adore (and by adore, I mean, can’t stop knitting). In Aran weight lopi yarn (aka Lettlopi), a traditional lopapeysa can be knit up in three weeks or so of fairly faithful attendance at the needles; in the bulky weight (Alafoss Lopi), they go even faster.
But I wanted something faster, and perhaps a bit lighter in weight than a traditional lopapeysa. Enough sweater to whet our appetites for Nordic sweater knitting, but quick enough to give us a sweater to keep us warm while we’re knitting more sweaters.
(Photo by Kathy Cadigan.)
It wasn’t hard to find Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Stopover sweater. Although it’s a recent design, it’s been knit a lot. In the run-up to Rhinebeck, and in its afterglow, finished Stopovers kept popping up on my Instagram, with knitters breezily commenting on how fast they’d cranked it out–in some cases in 5 days, in others, a long weekend.
(Photo by Kathy Cadigan.)
Stopover is a lopapeysa, but it’s knit at a significantly looser gauge than a typical Aran-weight lopapeysa. This makes it drapier, speedier to knit, and wearable both indoors and as a light woolly layer under a jacket. (Room temperature has to be set to “igloo” to wear a typically-gauged lopapeysa indoors.) Stopover has a dab of waist-skimming shaping that, together with its clean edgings and neckline, flatters everyone I’ve seen it on. (I saw five or six of them at Vogue Knitting Live last weekend, including one on Mary Jane herself.)
The plan: give everybody a week to ponder the knitalong concept, take a look at Stopover, get the pattern, turn the stash for appropriate yarn or venture out to rustle some up, and cast on next Monday, February 1. You and I will both be knitting it, so people can look for us casting on next Monday, here on the blog and also on Instagram, Facebook, and maybe even Periscope–you just never know.
The pattern calls for Istex brand Lettlopi, an Aran weight Icelandic wool. Each ball is 50 grams, 100 meters/109 yards. (It’s classed as an Aran weight yarn, but to me, at least before washing, it seems like a lighter weight.) The pattern is written for women’s size small through extra large, and calls for 5-7 skeins of the main color, and a skein each of three contrast colors for the hem, cuffs and yoke. EDITED TO ADD: The third contrast color–garnet red in the pattern– only gets used in one row of the yoke, for a single stitch in the repeat. This dot of color is barely visible in the photographs I’m looking at, so I’m thinking of eliminating it and going with only two contrast colors. (Yes, we haven’t even started and I’m fiddling with the instructions already.)
The designer, Mary Jane Mucklestone, expresses “a preference for airy light Icelandic wool, but other springy Aran weight wool or wool blend yarn would be suitable.” Having seen a few Stopovers, and worked with Lettlopi several times, I get what she is talking about. The Icelandic wool is barely spun, so it has a lot of air in it, and it expands a lot with washing, filling in the spaces that were air. (It also gets a lot softer.) I suspect that using an Aran weight yarn with a lot of twist in it might yield a sweater with signifcantly more heft than if Icelandic wool were used. Similarly textured yarns, such as Manos del Uruguay, for example, might achieve a comparable fabric when knit at Stopover’s gauge. We will see, won’t we? As much as I love lopi, and think it’s perfect for this sweater, it will be interesting to see what other yarns knitters choose.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments to this post. Think about banging out a sweater you can still wear this winter, and into spring. YES WE CAN.