Full circle

I have finished a project! A lovely Icelandic-style yoke sweater that has been on my wish list for a few years now. I have knit it with my handspun singles lopi-style yarn. An Icelandic sheep sweater shorn in October on an Icelandic pasture, spun from November to February and knit in February into a sweater for me with a round yoke. A full circle from fleece to sweater.

I have been working with the Icelandic lamb’s fleece for this sweater since November, a lot more monogamous than I usually do. Since I decided to spin the wool in the grease I didn’t want to let it sit longer than necessary, so I made an exception for it in my fleece queue.

27 skeins of Icelandic singles yarn.

Telja pattern

The pattern I chose is Telja by Jennifer Steingass. I wanted an Icelandic style pattern that was designed for a lopi-style yarn in a yarn weight I could manage to spin as a singles yarn. I figured that my lopi-style yarn would stand the best chance of resembling the stranded colourwork if the original pattern was designed for a similar yarn.

Shifting shades

The light grey, lighter grey, white and dyed blues come from one Icelandic lamb. I also bought 200 grams of fleece from a dark grey lamb for some contrast in the colourwork. I used the light grey (in the middle of the picture below) as the main colour. As it turned out, the contrast between the light grey and the dark grey was too small, so I needed a solution that would show the pattern despite this challenge.

These skeins come from one and the same fleece. The middle skein is the overall shade of grey of the fleece. This is also the shade that I have dyed in two blue tones.

Some parts of the fleece were lighter, almost white, and I decided to spin these parts separately into a white yarn. In the sweater I used the white yarn as main colour just before, during and just after a colourwork section, making the light grey ex-main colour a contrast colour over the colourwork sections. I tried to make a gradient from the light grey to the white with a couple of skeins that were sort of a light light grey.

Will there be enough white yarn left to finish the neckline?

I was a bit nervous about the white yarn, though, I wasn’t sure I had enough of it. When I bound off the last stitch of the collar I realized that it was enough, I even had a meter or so left. At least just enough to tie the leftover skeins of the remaining other colours into a bundle.

I dye with my little eye

Last summer I read about the Bengala mud dye colours in Handwoven magazine. I got a bit obsessed by the earthy tones and decided to buy some and try. A few pinkish tones, orange and yellow, plus indigo that would work with the other colours. I hadn’t found a good project to experiment with, until now. I wanted two shades of the same colour and decided on the indigo.

I have said it before and I say it again: Dyeing is not one of my superpowers. The shades got a bit too close to each other and somehow they both dry bleed. But I still love the result. And I’m very happy that I dyed on the light grey, it gives such a beautiful depth in the colour.

I will continue experimenting with these colours in upcoming projects. I’m sure I will learn a lot.

A teared watercolour painting

I had some thoughts about the shades and colours in the beginning, but as soon as the stranded pattern started to unravel I just loved the effect. It looks a bit smudged, almost like a tie-dye or watercolour art painted with drops of rain or tears.

The pattern falls from the yoke like a watercolour painting. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I wanted the yarn to be as simple and ras aw as possible. With that comes a sweater with that same raw expression. As I knit round and round the pattern runs down from my hands and land comfortably in an organized structure. On the wrong side the soft floats emerge like gentle waves on a summer lake.

Using handspun yarn in a project where the gauge is crucial for the fit is a challenge. Even more so with a singles yarn. I realized that the sleeves (which I knit before the body) got a bit tight at the cuffs with the stranded colourwork. No, I can’t tell you that, it’s too embarrassing.

I got a bit nervous about the colourwork sections over the hips and yoke, though. I tried the sweater on after the hip section and it worked. I was so scared of the yoke riding up that I didn’t try the sweater on until mid-colourwork, and to my great relief it fit perfectly. I do have to remove my glasses when I put the sweater on and off since the neckline is an I-cord bind-off with no elasticity, but I can take that.

A joyous knit

The yarn was truly lovely to knit with and it gave a soft and kind structure, lightweight and simple. I was a bit worried about the risk of bias since the yarn is single (eventhough I have shocked it to full it slightly). Therefore I added faux side and underarm seams using a column of purls.

I have been wearing the sweater a lot lately. It’s both comfortable and comforting to wear and I feel rich and fortunate to have the skills to make myself a warming and protecting shell.

Full circle. The sweater is finished and I’m spinning away on my next project on a department meeting at the home office.

So, now I have around 750 meters left of the yarn. Most of it in the light grey colour. I may dye some of it and use it in another project. I liked the Shaina top by Yumiko Alexander. With some modifications and additions I think I can make it work.


I have written a few earlier post about this fleece from different perspectives:

  • In Close I write a poetic style ode to the fleece.
  • In the grease covers the main part of the processing and spinning of the yarn – spinning a low-twist singles yarn from the cut end of teased locks in the grease.
  • In The gift of knowledge I look at a spinning from a spiritual perspective using this fleece as an example. It also shows how I make accordion burritos of the teased wool for easier spinning.
  • A sore thumb forced me to switch hands and a new world opened in front of me, right there in my hands. It also resulted in the free five-day challenge Hands-on that you are welcome to join.
  • In Dear Fleece I give thanks to the fleece for teaching me so much and move on from spinning to knitting.

Happy spinning!

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12 Replies to “Full circle”

  1. It’s a beautiful sweater and the colours work perfectly. Good tip about the purl columns when joining up garments that are knitted with singles – thank you

  2. Your Icelandic-style sweater is very beautiful.
    I really appreciate reading about your decision making at every stage of a project. Thank you for sharing the process with us.

  3. I love your beautiful Icelandic sweater! It fits so perfectly. I like the I-cord finish at the neck. A fresh approach – clean look. As others have mentioned, sharing your processes is enjoyable to read and so educational. The tip on the faux seams to prevent any biasing is such a good one! Thank you Josefin!
    Stay warm!

  4. It is such a joy to read about your work and see your lovely sweater first thing in the morning! Thank you for sharing your journey!

  5. Oh my goodness! That is a beautiful sweater! I’ve made two sweaters with Jennifer’s patterns and love them! Thank you for sharing your process!

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