Jefferson Henley Pullover (a finished object)

For those readers of this blog who also knit (that is, a fairly large proportion of the total, I suspect), I thought I’d drop by the blog today and show off my latest creation: a sweater I’m calling my Jefferson Henley pullover. This sweater is a very greatly modified version of the Topeka Henley pattern by Kate Gagnon Osborne. I’m calling it my Jefferson Henley because I made it out of yarn I bought in Jefferson, Wisconsin, during my very first (but definitely not last!) visit to the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. I’m so happy to have a knitted memento of that wonderland of yarn, sheep-shearing demonstrations, baked potatoes and bratwurst from the 4-H club and talkative sheep farmers (including the farmer from Iowa who started chatting to me in the line-up for lamb burgers and pulled out of his wallet a long string of photos of “his girls” and bid me admire the length and staple of their curly fleeces).


The details
Pattern: Topeka Henley, by Kate Gagnon Osborn
Yarn: Northport, by River’s Edge Fiber Arts This is a 3-ply 100% Merino yarn, which knits up very soft and springy. Another great thing about this yarn is that it is put up in giant skeins of 500 grams (over 700 meters), which is fabulous for sweater-knitting. Fewer ends to weave in!
Color: Mulberry. I bought two skeins and found that they were slightly different colors (I don’t believe I checked the dyelots). So one sleeve is obviously a different color than the other, but non-knitters have told me they don’t really notice unless they look hard! It’s a lovely color: here’s a close-up:


Pattern modifications

Size: I cast on for the 39.5 inch bust size, and eventually decreased down to the 35.75 inch bust size for the bust and raglan shaping. I knit the body section about 7 inches longer than the pattern called for: the original pattern is for a fairly cropped sweater, ending right at the waist, which I don’t find very flattering or practical. I wanted something that would keep my mid-section warm, and also look good with skinny jeans or skirts, sort of like a tunic.

Shaping: Because of the added length, I added increases at the bottom (to create what Kate Davies calls an “arse accommodator”, although she added her shaping in the center-back, whereas I added mine at the side seams). I then decreased back down to the stitch count for the waist called for in the 35.75 inch bust size. I knit the arms longer (I think) than the pattern called for.

Stitch pattern: Instead of garter-stitch welts and details, I used moss-stitch/seed stitch.

Edgings and buttonholes: I used an i-cord cast-on for the body and sleeves, and then cast-off using an i-cord cast-off at the neck. I love love love the effect of the i-cord cast-on on the sleeves; it creates a nice “bubble” of fabric at the wrists:

I did not create any buttonholes at the neck when I was knitting the main body pieces. First of all, I found it fairly confusing to keep track of the raglan shaping in the first place (it didn’t help that I knit much of this section during Christmas holidays at busy family events!), so I didn’t want to add another set of numbers to keep track of in order to do the buttonholes. Secondly, I find that no matter how careful I am, I make quite untidy buttonholes, so I wanted to try something new. After I had completed all other parts of the sweater, I took out my buttons and placed them evenly along the Henley neck – I ended up using seven buttons instead of the eight called for in the pattern. Seven looked nicely spaced, and since I only had eight of these buttons in total, I wanted to keep a spare. It will be fairly tough to find a matching replacement as they were a gift from a family member’s visit to New Zealand! Once I had established the spacing, I used a measuring tape and some scrap yarn threaded on a darning needle to mark the rows where the buttonholes should be. I just passed the scrap yarn through the edge of the row in question, cut off a short length of it, and tied the two ends in a knot.

I then used applied i-cord along both sides of the Henley neck. Whereas the i-cord along the neck is three stitches wide, the buttonbands and buttonhole edging are five stitches wide, which I thought looked sturdier and more pleasing. If you have not made i-cord buttonbands like this before, I very highly recommend it! It is so neat and tidy, and it is lovely not to have to worry about making buttonholes as you are zooming through your decreases at the end of a bottom-up seamless sweater. I will definitely be making buttonholes like this again!

Other changes: This sweater has armpit gussets, which were not a feature of the original pattern. This was the result of a SNAFU when I was putting the sleeves together with the body. For some reason, no matter how many times I did this, I ended up with much looser stitches and gaping yarn loops at either side of the sleeve joins, and I was getting pretty fed up. So I cast on eight stitches on either side of the join, using the slack in the strange loops of yarn I had there in order to make the stitches and tighten everything up again. This worked extremely well, but then I was left with many more stitches at the underarms than specified in the pattern, and the extra cast-on stitches made a sort of ‘H’ shape, with the original armpit stitches as the crossbar. Instead of just grafting them all together, I waited until everything else was done, and then picked up all of the underarm stitches in a big circle, knitted four rows to create a small triangle or pouch under each armpit for a gusset, and then grafted the stitches. Now that I have made a sweater with accidental armpit gussets, I believe I will try one with intentional gussets. They certainly make the sweater more comfortable, especially as I knitted the sleeves and bust to have very little ease. Some of the sweaters in Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans have gussets, and I would be interested to try again with the idea.

Overall, I am very pleased with this sweater, but ambivalent about the original pattern. I feel like the look of my sweater is quite different from the original, and more flattering to me (at least I think so!). I found the layout of this pattern to be non-intuitive, and I had to make many notes on my copy in order to keep my math straight. Towards the end of the knitting, I essentially stopped following the pattern, and eyeballed the final stages, using what I had learned from knitting another raglan sweater based on the instructions in Knitting Without Tears. So, if you are a beginning knitter, I would not recommend this as a starter pattern. But if you are more experienced, it could be worth a look – I had never thought of knitting a sweater with this neckline until I saw this pattern, and now I realize that it is a very practical and flattering style, as you can undo some of the buttons if you are getting warm (or if you are wearing a nice necklace you want to show off!) or leave them buttoned.

Next up on my knitting list is an Antler Hat (free pattern). I’d like to pretend that by the time it is finished, the recipient might not have a need for it anymore this season, but alas, we are supposed to get more snow this week! It is beautiful though:



Photographic air conditioning

Well, I spent much of the weekend reading (when I wasn’t picking strawberries on our bucolic and incredibly scenic CSA Farm, that is). I finished Bowling Avenue, and I finished rereading Sense and Sensibility; I’m also reading two fairly new “serious” history books: Ann Blair’s excellent Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age and Susan Matt’s Homesickness: An American History. And yes, I will confess that I feel like a complete nerd as I take notes on post-its and stick them into Blair’s book, which contains an entire chapter on the history of note-taking. Ah well, I am sure I am in good company!

A full review of Bowling Avenue is coming soon – the short version: I liked it very much, after a slow start. But I’m afraid that today, as I sit in my non-air conditioned house with my feet in a bucket of cold water, all I can think about is winter. So, in the absence of real air-conditioning, I give you the photographic kind (all photos taken by me in Madison in January):

Lake Monona, Jan. 2012

Lake Monona, Jan. 2012 2

Yahara River, Jan. 2012