Icelandic SweaterAugust 24, 2015
I had a lot of fun (and frustration) making an Icelandic Sweater, or Lopapeysa as it is known in Iceland. It is traditionally made with Lopi wool from an Icelandic breed of sheep with special fleece that is very warm, soft and weather resistant. I was making this sweater as a birthday present for my husband and he insisted that he did NOT want it to be wool. He wanted cotton. And a tight knit with small needles. Just my luck! But, a promise is a promise, so I designed the yoke (the part from the collar down the shoulders) special for him with a skull and crossbones pattern that I sketched on graph paper and tweaked until it would fit right with repeats and no leftovers to make a smooth pattern across the sweater.
I started with the Anniversary Sweater from Alafoss Wool Store and changed the yoke pattern to my own custom design. I figured I would need 2 1/2 SPOOLS of cotton worsted weight yarn, and 1 spool of black. And then 3 small skeins of gray for accent. I gathered up my husband and son and we headed out for yarn. By that night, I had everything I needed to start this project which, I don’t mind saying, intimidated the heck out of me. Up until this point, I had knitted blankets and mittens and scarves and hats but never a sweater. Not only was this my first sweater but it was a notoriously difficult sweater at that, with a very small weave! At least the pattern was for worsted weight yarn (just using cotton instead of wool.. I can adapt the pattern for that), but the recommended needles were nearly twice the size that my husband wanted me to use. That’s just math, I can make a swatch to check my gauge, compare to the recommended gauge and adjust the stitch count for my sweater. But the sheer scope of the project is what had me wanting to run and hide! I honestly don’t know why now, looking back, that I was so afraid to tackle a sweater pattern. I find them pretty easy now, just time consuming. But, I overcame my fear of the dreaded sweater pattern and started casting on for the waistband.
The Lopapeysa is knit bottom-up, which was a little odd to get used to. Also, I was an American knitter. Meaning, I held the yarn in my right hand and “threw” the yarn around the needles. I had learned to knit backwards (thanks mostly to my dyslexia) and sort of upside down. So, I always knit into the back of my stitches and the finished product always had the knit loops facing the wrong way. This also made purling very awkward and the overall progression was very slow. I had watched numerous videos on continental knitting, holding the working yarn in your left and and making small movements to knit each stitch. Considering my hand and arm exhaustion problems with my upside down and backwards american style, I wanted to give continental a try on this project. After all, it would be big enough to get the hang of nearly any new stitch!
Did I mention that this was also my first time to tackle stranded colorwork? I decided to give it a go with Fair Isle style on the yoke to keep everything neat on the inside and just go with the flow. Two colors were pretty easy, since I could knit continental with one hand and american with the other hand at this point, and pretty soon I was flying through the yoke! It took me three weeks of nothing but knit stitch in my new continental style to finish the body of the sweater. To me, this was flying through each stitch! The continental style was so fluid and smooth and the time I spent on this really helped me to get the hang of the style, which is my preferred style now. I spent about two weeks on the yoke by itself, gaining familiarity with the stranded colorwork, Fair Isle technique and trying to keep to my pattern. One week for the sleeves and one week figuring out how to attach them! LOL! So, 7 weeks of knitting nearly nonstop to get this sweater finished. Considering I was learning a LOT of new techniques in this time, I think it went pretty well but I am sure I can finish one in a month or less now. Yes, I know I look tired in the photo. I WAS tired in the photo! We spent my time knitting this sweater to catch up on 4 seasons of Game of Thrones, 1 season of Under the Dome and 4 seasons of Warehouse 13. It was winter, we were under blizzard after blizzard after blizzard and thankfully, we had internet access and Amazon Prime Streaming Video to keep us occupied. Here is the finished sweater, which my husband loved when his wouldn’t make it home and he had to go hiking in the last blizzard of the season and stayed warm the whole time!