Tuesday, January 9, 2018


Happy New Year! Best wishes from Florida!

This post is solely about my last finished project of 2017 – Birkin by Caitlin Hunter. I know that I promised a post about gauge and how to deal with it when it is different from the one in a pattern but I’ll do it next time.

First of all, why did I pick this pattern? Sure, it looks amazing on everyone who made it (look it up on Ravelry – there are hundreds of finished Birkins and they are all gorgeous) but it is a top down and seamless.

And I don’t do top down seamless garments, at least not for myself. And I’ve been rather vocal about how poorly they fit me and how quickly they become shapeless after washing. These are not my only reasons to avoid top down round yoke sweaters. In the past, I had problems with their construction. A knitted garment with a round yoke must fit around shoulders without constriction, rather loosely, so it would not restrict the arm movements and won’t look like a strait jacket. At the same time a round yoke (especially a colorful one) makes shoulders look broader and must be compensated somehow (by the sweater length or width) as to not to throw the overall proportions off balance.
My last reason to avoid making sweaters like Birkin was its gauge. It is designed for 26 sts per 4 inches gauge on small needles. It means that every row will be endless and painful (remember the colorwork part?) and the whole garment will take forever to finish.
As you can see, I had quite a few reasons for not making this jumper, so why change of heart? What made me do it?
The main reason was the yarn. I had 2 full skeins of Swans Island Merino fingering plus some leftovers from the Moonshine cardigan and I wanted to use this yarn on something for myself. If one day you try this yarn, you’ll understand why: it is incredibly soft, smooth, and light, and it knits up with perfect stitch definition. My biggest concern though was that I might not have enough yarn for the whole garment.

You see, just before Birkin, I almost made this cardigan from Kim Hargreaves’ last book but ran out of yarn in the middle of the second sleeve. Imagine that! It hasn’t happened to me for a while and, obviously, I became reckless and didn’t pay attention to the yarn requirements for the pattern. Anyway, after a major blow like this I needed to be completely confident that there was enough yarn. Obviously, my first thought was about a top down sweater. And Birkin was the one that came to my mind, because I loved it the moment I saw it with its intricate colorwork and a flattering a-line shape.

My gauge was even smaller than in the original pattern – 28 sts per 4 inches so I knew this project will take me a long time to finish. But at least I could be certain that it would be finished because when you make a top down you can stop whenever you ran out of yarn. Isn’t it great? Yet, my children were coming for Christmas and I didn’t anticipate having a lot of time for knitting.
I didn’t even consider using several colors for the fair isle pattern at the yoke – with this gauge it would take me forever and my plan was to finish the yoke before children’s’ arrival  and have only mindless stockinette knitting for the holidays.
After several tries I decided to go with dark blue cashmere yarn from Colormart. It made enough contrast with the main color and had the same gauge. The fair isle pattern for this sweater can be easily transformed for two colors so there were no problems there.

My main question was – what size of the written pattern should I use? Thanks to all the Ravelers who had made Birkin already and wrote about the process I figured out that the best size for me would be L. Yet, I picked up stitches for the biggest size – XXXL – to be able to get my head in and out of the sweater without any problems, and picked up stitches after ribbing for size L. If I make this sweater again one day, I will probably use a provisional cast on instead and do the ribbing at the end, after finishing the whole sweater.
Making the yoke took a while but when I tried it on the fit was perfect, with the exact amount of ease that I needed.

For the body I used smaller needles (US 0 - 2.00 mm, for the yoke I used US 1 1/2 - 2.5 mm) and made only 9 rounds of stockinette before dividing the stitches in 4 parts.  Since the beginning I decided that I will make this sweater with seams – to avoid excessive stretchiness and to keep its shape. All parts after the yoke were made in stockinette knitting back and forth. For all parts I picked up 9 stitches at both sides, knit straight, and finished with ribbing for the body; and made decreases 8 times in every 20 row for the sleeves.
Needless to say, that working on it was time-consuming and boring, but as a project for holiday knitting when you knit with little light and even less time to think about what you are doing, it was very convenient.

I used up all the Swans Island yarn that I had, didn’t even have enough to seam the parts together. And I am in love with the finished sweater. It turned out exactly as I wanted and is comfortable and beautiful at the same time. What I like the most – it doesn’t look too “handmade”.  Do you know what I mean? Sometimes handmade clothes look a little bit too amateurish for my taste. Well, this one doesn’t. More pictures on my Ravelry page.

And now I am busy finishing other warm knits in anticipation of our trip to New York City. Yes, we are going there pretty soon and I’ll need as many wooly clothes as possible so I won’t freeze to death. That is why my post about gauge has to wait. Probably till spring. But I promise to write it… eventually.
Stay warm,