Knitting project: Elderberry Road Cardigan

This post reminds me that I haven’t finished writing about our amazing trip early this year to France and Iceland. I need to get on that, but it is always a challenge to put those memories on ‘paper’ after so much time has passed (it’s been four months). I will try to make time for it.

Near the end of our Iceland trip, I decided I wanted to check out Icelandic sweaters. Having picked up knitting again, I felt I would really appreciate a fair-isle sweater. I was looking for something hand-knit versus a factory-produced item. There is a price difference between the two, but in the end, I felt that both were quite expensive. The quality of Icelandic sweaters is very good, but perhaps almost too warm? Canadian winters can get bone-chillingly cold, but we wear windproof and waterproof coats to stay warm. Layered on top of an Icelandic sweater, it would be overly toasty, but worn on its own, I’m not sure it would be sufficient. Icelandic winters can get cold, but not to the same degree as here in Toronto. I don’t think they necessarily reach -20C. Practicality aside, it hurts a little to admit that the style of the sweater isn’t particularly flattering on me. I tried on numerous sweaters, both hand-knit and mass produced, in various yarn weights and colours. In the end, I found the yokes too wide for my frame, and the raglan construction swallows my body and negatively emphasizes my slim stature. I still love the beautiful yoke designs, so I decided to purchase Icelandic yarn and knit something up. I wasn’t prepared to purchase yarn, because I didn’t have a project in mind. It would take me too long to figure out a fair-isle sweater project tailored for my body. I was running out of time. I logged on to Ravelry and found a cardigan (not fair-isle) that I had been considering earlier. After checking the gauge in the pattern, and the gauge of the Lopi yarn, I decided I could make this work. The Lopi yarn was on sale, and I loved the colours, so I ended up purchasing 14 balls (enough for the cardigan and mittens), and I think the total came to under $80 CDN – so good! (My cascades sweater cost me about $150 in yarn)

It was early August that I began to knit up this beautiful Elderberry Road cardigan. I wasn’t expecting to pull out the knitting needles in the summer, but we experienced some crazy-hot/humid days this summer that made it too unbearable to be active outdoors (biking). What better way to pass the time than to knit! Of course my first go at the cardigan after swatching ended in ripping back my work because I had mis-counted the number of cast-on stitches (I casted-on too many).

Pile of yarn after ripping back the ribbing.

Frogging your work is every knitters nightmare. You end up with a tangled mess and it’s time wasted, but for me, it’s become part of the journey. The frustration is what drives me to re-start soon after. In this case, after steaming and re-balling the yarn, I immediately re-started the project (same day).

My initial thoughts of the lopi yarn were not positive. The yarn was/is super scratchy, not making it comfortable to knit with, but my skin got used to the wool after a few days and it no longer bothered me. The prickliness of the wool isn’t surprising as I have read many comments from American knitters complaining about the yarn being unwearable. I still wanted to go ahead with the project.

Ribbing and body underway

I do love the texture of this cardigan. It wasn’t quite what I expected based on the photo from the designer, but I love it. It definitely gives this piece a uniqueness and the pattern is very easy to remember. As you can see, I’m using circular needles, but I’m not knitting in the round. I will eventually attempt a steeking project, but this pattern calls for knitting back-and-forth. 

This project required a number of bind-offs, which I’m not as familiar with. I chose to bind-off in pattern.

Body & start of left armhole completed. Right side was bound-off. Centre body stitches are held on a stitch holder. This is the wrong-side view.

Body is complete. This is the right-side view.

When I completed the body, I continued to feel some nerves because the width was only 25-inches. My gauge swatch was almost spot on with the pattern gauge, so I knew from experience that I just had to trust the gauge.

I started the sleeves using DPNs and put them both on one circular needle. As always, I’m so thankful to be able to knit them at the same time.

Magic loop, 2aat sleeves. 12 rounds of ribbing.

Round and round we go.

Sleeves take so long to knit up…

When I finally got the right length (determined by trying them on, making knitting them up on circs better than DPNs), it was time to knit up the sleeve cap.

One sleeve cap completed and testing the length. Works for me!

In total, I had (I believe) 166 rounds from the start of the cuff to the top of the sleeve cap. And this is why I prefer knitting 2aat!

With the body and the sleeves completed, it was time to block the pieces before attaching the sleeves and knitting the bands. As I mentioned, my skin had already become accustomed to the wool, but I was curious to see what the wool wash would help to further soften it.

Wet blocking the sleeves and body.

The moment of truth – laying the damp pieces and shaping them to size to dry. Hallelujah! I’m not sure the wool wash made the material any softer. It’s still a little scratchy, but it can go against my skin without irritation.

Time to attach the shoulders and sleeves. I found it helpful to take the time to match the armhole and sleeves and pin.

Setting in the sleeves

Using a smooth yarn, I started to attach the sleeve to the body, taking my time and constantly checking my tension. It’s easy to get excited about getting the job done, but you really don’t want to rush it and have to pull back and re-do the job.

Once the sleeves were attached, I tried it on before tying off. Actually, I didn’t even do that. I left it as is and moved on to the button bands. I messed up this part and reversed the bands so that the buttons are on the ‘guy’ side (right side). No biggie. The challenge with the button band was figuring out where to pick up the stitches to ensure I had 90 stitches evenly up the sweater. Seeing it come together was pure joy and it gave immediate structure to the cardigan. I was so excited when I tried it on.

Button band completed, giving the right side of the cardigan nice structure.

The buttonhole band proved to be challenging because it looks like the pattern calls for 7 buttons (according to the picture of the finished product), but I only had six buttons. I also had to figure out how to make the buttonholes. The buttons I was using were also purchased from Iceland and they are made from caribou antlers. They’re on the larger side, so I needed to be sure my holes would accommodate them. I really struggled with the stitch counts for this portion of the project, but it got done. I ended up removing the top button as the weight made it so that I could not wear the cardigan unbuttoned without the top flopping in a way I disliked. I considered finding a different button for the top, but have decided to leave the top buttonless for the time being.

I steam blocked the button and neck bands and secured the remaining five buttons. I’m very happy with the outcome! It took me two months to complete – a record! It helps when a pattern is uncomplicated. 

Elderberry Road Cardigan made with Lopi yarn.

I’m very happy with the fit. This is the smallest size in the pattern.

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