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    Entries in Alafoss (3)


    Icelandic Lopapeysa sweater - finished!



    Do you remember that I bought a sweater kit after seeing the Alafoss stand at Unravel back in February?Well, I started knitting it when we went to Wales on our glamping holiday. And less than a month later I finished it, in plenty of time before the weather gets really cold. 

    I'm so pleased with it! I'm not a petite person (!) & I did wonder if there really was enough yarn in the kit to make the largest size. I made the largest womens size, which in reality is smaller than the same chest size for a man's jumper. I didn't know how much positive ease would be included so I decided to go for a needle that gave me a slightly looser tension than the pattern. The largest size (45") is the same as my chest measurement & I knew I wanted the jumper to be big so I could use it in place of a coat if I wanted to. So the looser tension meant that the sizing would be generous. As it turns out, there is plenty of positive ease without it drowning me, so that's exactly what I wanted. And with loads of yarn left over. 

    The colours are glorious and will glow out in our rather grey miserable winters. I really enjoyed knitting with the Lett-lopi. It felt properly wooly & while it is currently a bit scratchy (which is fine, it's an outer layer) it has a definite softness, especially around the stranded yoke that suggests that it will soften and get more & more comfortable with wear. The stranding was fun & the chart was easy to follow. I did make a few mods. The main one, which I now do with most jumpers was to change the positioning of the arms. I measure nearly 10" more around the front of my chest than around the back, so instead of placing the arms equally, there are around 30 more stitches at the front than the back. I added a couple of short rows after the colourwork to raise the back of the neck, and I did around 1" ribbing for the neckline which is longer & folded over in the pattern. England is not quite as cold as Iceland so I felt that a less bulky neckline would be more wearable here.

    I'll make another one I think, but this time I might steek it to make a cardigan. Caerthan, the dyer behind the supremely covetable Triskelion yarns has recommended the Alafoss Plotulopi yarn - and I'm always happy to follow a recommendation!

    I'm not very comfortable with having my photo taken, but there's not much point blogging about my new jumper without photos. So here are some very sensible pics (ignore the creases from folding). I'm going to wear the hell out of this jumper :)


    Swatching for jumpers in the round & Alafoss discount

    Do you remember my post about the Icelandic jumper kit I bought? Thought I would post a wee reminder that the 15% discount voucher for Alafoss runs out on June 1st. So if you want to buy some Icelandic yarn or one of their fantastic value kits - now is the time to do it!! Enter the code 'Happymaking' at the checkout to get your discount.

    I did a first rough swatch for the jumper a little while back & thought I'd share how I did it. As the wool & the pattern writer are both new to me, I wanted to try some different types & sizes of needle to see what would be closest to the given tension.

    The jumper is worked in the round from the bottom up. This poses a challenge for checking tension (gauge). Most people will find that there is a difference in their tension between stocking stitch worked flat & in the round. The purl row tends to be a slightly different height than the knit row. Luckily there is an easy way to work a swatch on the circular needles you want to use without having to cast on a sweater's worth of stitches, or having to play around with magic loop. 

    This swatching method needs circular needles (any length) or double pointed needles

    Cast on at least 4 sts more than the tension given. Knit 1 row. DO NOT TURN.

    Slide the sts along to the other end of the circ needle. Bring the yarn loosely around the back of the knitting.

    Knit the next row, starting at the same side that you started at on the first row.

    Repeat. After a few rows your swatch should look like this: 

    You have loose loops behind your swatch. 

    I tried wood & metal needles in a couple of different sizes and got the right tension with wood knit pros. This was right before soaking. Everything can change when you soak your swatch!

    When your swatch is big enough (this one isn't, I was just playing around with different needles), cast off. You should always wash/steam your swatch. Treat it as you would the finished item. The change in tension can be quite dramatic.

    Before (or after if you are using silk/bamboo/something really slippy), cut through the strands of yarn. Cut in the middle of their length, and don't panic. It won't unravel!. 

    Wash and lay flat to dry. I pinned my swatch because I put it outside on a windy day. 

    The purl bumps on the right hand side tell me where I changed needle & what I changed to. 

    The part of the swatch that hit 18 sts to 4" before washing? It now gets a little bit under 17sts to 4". That translates to a 3" increase on a L size jumper, taking it from 42" to 45". Lucky I didn't cast straight on!! However, I now know that I hit tension with the 4.5mm Chiagoo metal needle, which seemed too tight before washing.

    I know swatching can seem like a waste of time & yarn. But when you are putting the time & effort into making a jumper, it can be heartbreaking when it comes out a different size to the one you intended. Or if it comes out perfect and then grows the second you wash it! So learning to swatch in the round for a jumper knit in the round is actually a timesaver!

    Is this how you swatch for jumpers in the round? Let me know if you do it differently xx



    ALL THE WOOL - Part 2. And a discount code :)

    Now I love a spot of alpaca, silk or cashmere as much as the next knitting addict. But there is something about wool - no nonsense, pure wool. It's unlike any other fibre - it breathes, it has enormous natural elasticity, it's warm, it can absorb loads of water before it feels wet - if we had invented it, the company that patented it would be seriously rich!

    But it's not manufactured. It's not especially processed. It's cleaned, sometimes it's dyed, it's combed into order and spun. That's it. The differences come from how it's spun and the breed of sheep that grew it. And the really amazing thing is that we have relied on it for warmth for centuries. My family is Scottish. Historically, we have been wrapped in wool from birth to death and everything between.  My ancesters would have frozen without wool!

    All colder climes have their knitting traditions - based on wool. From super colourful Andean hats & sweaters, to complex cabled Arans, to Estonian or shetland lace, fishermans' wind & waterproof Ganseys, to world famous fairisle, and the intricate colourwork of the Scandinavian countries.

    Like all of these practical knitted traditions, Icelandic Lopi jumpers are designed to be worn daily, to protect you from the cold. That is their function. And yet we are drawn to make them decorative & colourful to fight off the dark of winter. Our ancesters made them because if they didn't, their families would freeze. In our centrally heated world, we can make them for the pleasure of it.

    At Unravel, I visited the Alafoss stand. I bought a single ball of laceweight wool - the only one left. I missed out on the jumper kits - they had already sold out. But I was intrigued, and signed up to their mailing list. A few weeks later I got an email - kits were back in stock. I headed over to the website, clocked the incredibly reasonable prices and a few seconds later was pressing 'add to cart'. As it was shortly before my birthday, Mum offered to pay the majority of the cost for me - so it's mostly a present :)

    I chose the most colourful Celebration kit. Alafoss offer to switch colours if you want, and I tested that by asking if they would change the main colour from a natural black marl to a rich heathered purple. A few days later, my kit arrived, cleverly packaged in a zip up project bag, with all the wool I need to make even the largest size pattern and a clearly written pattern.

    They did change the main colour by the way - how gorgeous is this purple? Yes I know I have a bit of a purple issue. But I like it! It looks good with so many other colours. And I accidentally felted my other purple handknit jumper. I NEED a new one, so there :P

    I'm really impressed with the Alafoss wool, the ease of ordering and the quick delivery. I haven't started the pattern yet, but I will once I've finished the magazine commission I'm working on. It's a simple shape, knit in the round from the bottom up - I could add waist shaping, but I probably won't - with the yoke decreases built into the colourwork charts. There isn't any steeking or anything scary involoved. It looks like a nice satisfying knit with some colourwork interest added. I'll let you know how it goes! 

    Do you fancy knitting your own Lopi? Alafoss have very kindly offered readers the chance to get 15% off their first order. I'll repeat that: 15% off! Just enter the code 'happymaking' at checkout and the discount will be applied. The prices are already good - a discount makes them even better! 

    The website prices are in US dollars or Euros. I worked out the cost of the cheapest adult kit, with the discount, assuming a postage charge of $20 as $53.53. At todays exchange rate that's £32.42. For a 100% wool adult sweater kit that fits up to a 45" chest. The kit that I bought, with more colours is a little more expensive, but it still came in at under £40. The exchange rate may be different to the exact rate charged, but it gives you an idea of the costs involved. 

    It's a bargain! What are you waiting for? The code is vaild until june 1st 2014, so you have plenty of time. Why not take the chance to get a head start on family christmas presents? Although if you are like me, family can wait - this jumper is for me!