Earlier this month, Knit Picks released their 2015 Fair Isle Collection, with which I immediately fell in love. I love stranded knitting. I love looking at it. I love knitting it. It is one of my favorite knitting techniques. I have been in the mood for a sweater with an all-over stranded knitting motif, something modern and pretty. So I fell pretty hard for the Mull of Kintyre Cardigan.

And by fell hard, I mean I bought the whole pattern book and the kit for the sweater. And I was really, really, really excited for the yarn to arrive so I could start on this beautiful, challenging, perfect sweater. But I hadn’t really paid attention to the fact that the whole thing was knit flat (yuck). And it wasn’t until I looked over the charts that I realized that there were more than a few rows that were knit using 4-5 colors at the same time. I was a little worried, but I told myself it would just be my challenge for the year (because I really, really loved the sweater, guys): finish this sweater while strengthening my skills in stranded knitting.

So this weekend, when my yarn arrived, I started swatching.

2015-01-18 17.34.45But…

I could not get gauge! Everything I tried came out too tight, even after I went up 1.5mm in needle size. (I actually knit four different gauge swatches, but these are the only ones that lived to see the light of day). And, more importantly, I kind of hated knitting just the swatches. My purl rows were not too pretty, and fighting with 5 different yarns (even on bobbins) was a nightmare for my tension. By Saturday night, I was so frustrated with the whole thing. I would look at the pattern and the swatches, which were so pretty (mostly), and just be exasperated that this wasn’t working for me. I wanted it to work really, really badly. But I just knew that if I was this frustrated with just the swatches, then getting through the whole sweater would be a knitting nightmare of epic proportions.

If anyone has/knows of tips for stranded knitting flat and with 4+ colors, please share with me! I couldn’t find much out there, which only compounded my frustration.

I felt rather defeated. And a bit angry. And just all together flustered. I hate feeling like I couldn’t accomplish something I set out for myself. So I spent all day Sunday planning to take on another stranded knitting project with this yarn because 1) I have it, so I want to use it, 2) I love the colors they picked for this sweater, and 3) I will not be beaten by this. I want something that pushes me a bit. So, I think I’ve decided to modify Kate Davies’ Paper Dolls sweater. I’ve knit the pattern before with a Totoro yoke, so I have a familiarity with the pattern that I feel will give me the confidence to try it again with a custom yoke of my own design while also converting it into a cardigan.

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I love the mod, retro look of the flowers on the Bunty Mitts (especially with my color palette) combined with the style of Kate’s Foxglove sweater, so I ran with it, playing with different heights and color combinations.

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In the end, I’ve decided to go with a single height (to avoid having to do the flower tops with intarsia and having weird tension issues) and stick to red flowers with just a couple cheeky turquoise flowers thrown in for a little surprise and good fun.

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So, I’m going to let myself cool down a little bit while I finish up at least one of the other sweaters I have on the needles currently. Then I’ll take on this project just to build up my self-esteem a little bit. And maybe someday, after some more practice and patience, I’ll be able to tackle the Mull of Kintyre. But today is not that day.


16 Comments on Limitations

  1. Oh no! It’s so disappointing when a project isn’t right for where we are 🙁 But I love your swatches for the new sweater, and hope that it’s enjoyable for you 🙂

    • I want to see someone complete the Mull of Kintyre sweater, just so I can bother them to help me with it. It seems like a really difficult pattern, though, and I’m not just saying that to boost my own self esteem. I think it would definitely help if it was knit in the round and steeked, but I wasn’t quite comfortable enough modifying the pattern on my own. So now I’ll wait and see if someone else does it for me. 😉 And in the mean time, work on lovely patterns that don’t make me want to throw the yarn across the room.

  2. wait, this entire sweater calls for 1.5mm needles?! That’s crazy tiny! I assume you wet blocked your swatches, right? I find that sometimes aggressve wetblocking can really get you that gauge you need. But I don’t think I’d have the patience to knit an entire sweater on 1.5mm needles, no matter if it were all one colour. Your colours are indeed, gorgoues,though! the swatches look beautiful.

    • Oh no, it’s knit with 3.25mm needles, but I tried everything from 3mm to 4.5mm. I think I am having trouble with my float tension switching from knit and purl rows while also dealing with floating 3-4 strands. I did wet block all my swatches, but that has its limits for my floats. I think I just need more experience with working with more colors and working flat color work.

  3. One of the books I borrowed from the library on fair isle knitting recommended using a yarn holder on your finger to help keep an even tension – I can’t remember exactly what they’re called but I think it’s “yarn guide”. Maybe that would help?

    • I may look into that. I think they make some for more than two colors, so it may really help me for projects like this. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Aargh, that’s so frustrating! I’m not familiar with stranded knitting, so I can’t help you on that matter. I think you’re handling it very good by knittinhg another cardigan with your own colour palette, they look great.

    • Thanks, Ine. I think it’ll help me release some of that frustration, while still providing me with a pretty colorwork sweater. Even if it’s not exactly what I had in mind, it’s something at least.

    • I haven’t hated stranded knitting, until now. I think my floats were just way too tight, which was leading to a tight gauge. But I couldn’t get it under control with so many colors to deal with. It’ll just take some more experience, I think.

  5. It sucks that the project wasn’t working out, but yikes, a complete cardigan knit flat with so many colours going on?! There’s not shame in saving that for a later point. I love the retro flower look, it will make an awesome yoke!

  6. totally feel your pain on this one……i had a lingering sweater—fair isle (traditional with only 2 colors per row) but knit flat; it was my dream sweater, but I got only enough done to turn the back into a cowl. It still took about 8 years. Your solution is so much better than mine was!!!!!

  7. Flat colourwork certainly is a pain, I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of stranding up to five colours at once! But your colour choices are beautiful and I really like your new design. Definitley try out the yarn guides, I have one from Knit Picks (I think it was $1 or $2, not a big investment at all) and it really helps.

    • I will definitely check them out the next time I order from Knit Picks. I do fine without for two color stranding, but I think I want to try three colors at least, so a guide will probably come in handy.

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