It is done! I have done it! My handspun sweater is finally complete! Creating a sweater from raw wool into finished garment is very satisfying, and (as you might have guessed), very time-consuming. Talk about slow fashion! I haven’t quite decided how I want to release the pattern for this yet. And since I haven’t done all the math on the other sizes, I will just talk today about the process.
It’s been awfully cold here lately, with our first sub-zero (Farenheit) temperatures of the season. So getting a decent couple of pictures of this sweater has been a bit tricky. As you can see above, I just gave up and went for the teenage-esque bathroom shot.
Spinning Yarn for Sweaters
I spun a buttload of this yarn last year and dyed a huge batch of it blue. I loved it at the time for it’s color and the thin and consistent ply of the yarn. I posted it in my Etsy shop dutifully and hoped it wouldn’t sell. Lucky for me, I only sold one of the 5 skeins, so I still had plenty for a cardigan.
I have made two other handspun sweaters before. The first was the Bit of Funk Sweater: My first, and, thus far, only knitting pattern that I’ve released with a paying publisher. This sweater took 1500 yards of wool and was, in general, a beast. You can see in the length of the pattern alone that I did not go for making it overly-simplified.
For both the Bit of Funk and the Hackney Cardigan, I spun a double-ply yarn. Double-ply means the yarn is made of only 2 strands. It’s relatively common for handspinners to make double-ply yarn instead of a thicker weight mostly because it’s less time-consuming to get good yardage. However, I like double-ply for wool sweaters because it’s less heavy than a thicker yarn. That helps prevent the sweater from sagging down more than necessary, and I also tend to like the drape of a double-ply a bit better. That was really useful for the Bit of Funk sweater.
For the contrast color in this pattern, I was originally going to use another handspun mini-skein I dyed with onion skins. However, I was very worried about not having enough yardage, so I went with a lovely mustard yarn I purchased years ago at a thrift shop.
What’s in a Name:
*If you want to know a bit about why my knitting patterns are named after horse breeds, you can read the beginning of my Shetland Mittens pattern.*
Hackney Horses are known as lovely driving horses with a nice flashy high stepping action. I debated whether I wanted to name this a Hackney Cardigan, because there is also a lovely Hackney Pony breed. So it seemed proper that I shouldn’t release a pattern in the name until I had a “pony” version to make a matching cardigan for my girls.
However, when I look at this cardigan, the name Hackney seems to fit well. These are horses that look nice but are also useful for English work, jumping or dressage. I think of this sweater the same way: looks nice, but also useful for office work. The clasps button right up to the neck for a proper and sedated formal look. And the little yellow accents on the trim and embroidery elevate the design of this sweater just like a fine high step.
I am all about cardigans because I love layering and the flexibility to remove or add them as necessary throughout a long day. Also, I love libraries so much, the library couture has kind of stuck in my head.
This is a yoke design (another reason it was named after a driving horse breed) which starts from the top down. I’ve only done one other yoke sweater, and it was a tiny one for a newborn. Doing a full-sized yoke was a bit intimidating for me, but I did really enjoy being able to put her right on my shoulders as I worked to get the fit correct.
One reason I didn’t use an existing pattern was that I couldn’t find one with ribbing up to the bust the way I wanted it: I wanted a sweater I could button down to my hips with ribs that shaped with my body. I found several lovely cardigan patterns, but none really fit the bill for shaping around my waist properly. If you want to see some other lovely patterns, check out my favorites in my ravelry cardigan bundle.
Of course, I probably could have just added ribbing from another pattern and not dealt with the mistakes I made during design, but I have a tendency to have a vision and feel the need to go with it. Part of this is because I hate carrying a pattern around, so I just go with what I’ve got.
The sleeves on this pattern were inspired by the Bit of Funk sweater. Instead of lining them with lace and putting on buttons, I just picked up stitches around the corner and created a trim. Picking up one stitch for every row created a very slight ruffled effect that I love.
The part that I was most excited about for this sweater ended up being the clasps I bought on Etsy. I hemmed and hawed over ordering these for a long while. I could have certainly used regular old buttons and not shipped from so far away, but they match the flower I embroidered onto the back of the sweater so well, that I decided I would allow myself this one small luxury expense.
Originally, when I designed this sweater, it was going to have a pocket in the small of the back so I could carry my phone without messing up the silhouette from the front. However, I changed my mind about adding this once I had finished knitting the body. I don’t see myself wearing this with just leggings or some other pocket-less bottom, so I think she can stand on her own without an extra pocket.
Design Flaws and Fixes
One major mistake I made was increasing too much under the arms for my bust. I ended up giving myself way too much room and now the sides of the sweater at my bust are too big. This isn’t terribly noticeable to me unless I lift up my arms to gaze at the mistake.
Also, I made the arms a bit tight around my biceps. When I’m editing the pattern, I will add a bit more ease in the upper arm as well as a little more space around the shoulders.
Putting the clasps on the front without overlap gave me a great deal of pause. Of course, most sweaters have one side overlapping the other at the front to help keep out the wind and avoid unsightly gapping. I played with this for a while, but in the end, I decided I liked having the front line up so that I could see the 2 parallel lines of trim down my front.
I also like the idea of sewing up a shirt to peek out from underneath. I’ve set aside some old blue scrubs from the wasband that I think will work quite nicely.
I made one last tweak after wearing the sweater out once: I decided to tighten up the wide neckline a touch with a crochet trim. This was extremely helpful in stabilizing the who sweater a bit and giving it just enough structure to keep it from stretching down my shoulders as the day wears on.
Based on how slowly I’m bothering to get the Faerie Sweater sizes calculated, I don’t have high hopes for tweaking and getting this pattern just right in an expanded size range. (Motivation appreciated if you want to send me a message.) We shall see what the future holds. Perhaps if I get the pony versions of this cardigan finished, I’ll find the motivation to complete the sizing.
Do you have any sizing mishaps or self-designed problems? I love getting your mail and comments, so please keep them coming!