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Rusty Cardigan

I don't know if it was lockdown fatigue getting to me but a few weeks back I got this urge to cast on a new sweater. Sooner that I knew it I was rifling through stash and found four skeins or Berroco Ultra Alpaca in an army green color, leftovers from the Beagle sweater I'd knit my hubby a few years back in 2015. I always wanted to use them up to knit a sweater for myself but always came up a little short on yardage with all the pattern I had in mind. So I'd set that plan aside.

What if I paired it with another color, though? Another rummage through the stash and out came this chartreuse yellow DROPS Nepal, leftovers from Penrith Cardigan I test knit that same year. (Did you know I was also a test knitter before I started designing? Now you do.)

Stripes? Nah. Colorwork? BINGO! Advanced pattern search for two-color worsted-weight colorwork sweaters on Ravelry and re-discovered a pattern that was already in my favorites: Rusty Cardigan by Steinunn Birna Gudjonsdottir. The designer writes on the pattern page that the colorwork motif on the yoke comes from the book Ornaments and Patterns Found in Iceland. To me it looks like dandelion puffs.

The only hitch was that pattern is written to be knit from the bottom up. But I wouldn't let that stop me! I'd modified a bottom-up cardigan to a top-down one before with Sibella. It's a little mind-bendy at first but basically what you have to do is read the pattern backwards, starting with the bind-off stitch count and converting all decreases to increases.

A colorwork cardigan knit in the round is obviously steeked in the end. I pulled another skill I'd used in the past with Iðunn and did a partial steek: working only the colorwork portion in the round. That meant casting on extra stitches at the mid-front just before the colorwork motif and then binding them off at the bottom of the yoke. But that also meant the steeked portion is much smaller — and less scary to do than a full steek.

Both of the yarns I used had alpaca in the mix. With alpaca being a slippery fiber I opted to do a sewing-machine steek rather than a hand-crocheted one. This secured the yarn ends when I did the 'eek' part of steeking: taking scissors to the garment and snipping stitches in half. The button bands as well as neckband, cuffs and the hem were all done in broken ribbing. In the inside of the steek I hand stitched a piece of sateen ribbon to hide the yarn ends.

Just before separating sleeves and body I used my favorite technique for improving circular yoke fit: short rows (more on that in a couple of weeks). By the time I got to the bottom of the yoke I'd already used one full skein. The sleeves took nearly a skein each and I was getting a little concerned about running out of yarn.

To make the Ultra Alpaca go all the way I improvised little colorwork motifs on the sleeve cuffs. It wouldn't have been necessary since, in the end, I had nearly half a skein of the main color left over. But it adds a nice touch, don't you think?

For the body I added waist and back shaping. The cardigan is still a bit loose on me and I think I would've gotten away with knitting the XS size. But I'm still pretty pleased with the fit: the cardigan is comfortable to wear without being too saggy.

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#knitting #colorwork #cardigan #yoke #roundyoke #circularyoke #stranded #steeking #topdown

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Susanna Winter is a knitwear designer, creating timeless and elegant pieces with clean lines. She has been knitting for over 20 years, knit blogging since 2007, and designing knitting patterns professionally since 2016.

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