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Tips and trick for knitting an Icelandic Sweater


Here’s a confession.
The first time I knit a traditional Icelandic sweater, lopapeysa, it was a total disaster!

I had no idea that there was more to it than simply knitting it. So after I had woven in the last end, and grafted the underarm on the wrong side leaving an ugly, bulging seam, I laid it down to admire it. Laying there, staring back at me, was this crumpled up, uneven and frankly ugly looking thing. After all this effort and all those hours knitting this was a huge disappointment!

Thankfully my fiancé, who this garment was made for, was aware of all my hard work so he pretended to love it. He has yet to admit that he doesn’t and he still uses it, to my great shame. I called my friend who is a very skilled knitter, almost in tears, to ask for advice. She told me to soak it for a long while and then gently pulling on it before laying it flat and finally pressing it once dry. So naturally I dipped it in water for a few seconds and then frantically stretched the bejeezus out of it! Thank goodness Icelandic lopi yarn is so forgiving, so I didn’t break the yarn and ruin the whole thing!

This horrible mistreatment of the garment did help some, and it ended up looking… well, a little better. I wish I could take a picture and show you guys, but again, the Icelandic wool is so manageable that it evens out over time with washing and wearing, so today it just looks like a normal, old, outworn lopapeysa.

After this traumatising experience I wanted to make sure this didn’t happen again the next time I made an Icelandic sweater, so I made sure to leave a lot of slack on my floats. (A float is the string of yarn carried on the back of the garment while knitting in a different color) Of course I ended up overcompensating so much that all my stitches were loose and hanging, and it was hard to put on the sweater without getting tangled up in there.
(This is salvageable by gently pulling each loop, gathering the extra yarn together, and then weaving it in like you would when finishing.)

After those two first impressions of knitting an Icelandic sweater I decided I just couldn’t do it. So I avoided making them at all cost. I did regularly see new designs that were oh so pretty and I desperately wanted to make, but obviously I was incapable of knitting colorwork so I just admired them from a safe distance.

Recently I was at my favorite local yarnstore, drinking coffee and knitting with a group of experienced knitters and the topic of knitting a yoke came up. I told them my horror story and they proceeded with drowning me in advice for avoiding these problems.

As soon as I got home I cast on one of those designs I have been longing to make and could’t wait to get to the yoke to try them out.
I noted down what worked well for me, and today I am sharing it with you guys

Tension
As established above, my biggest problem was the tension. I got a lot of advice on how to try to fix that, but there is one that stands out and worked perfectly for me.
Ok, are you ready? Knit the yoke inside out!
Are you confused? I was confused. I tried purling the stitches, knitting in the wrong direction and knitting like I would normally. None of that worked. Finally I figured out that it’s not enough to turn the work inside out, you have to turn it away from you as well. So you’re knitting just like you normally would with the right side facing you, but when the right side is on the inside of the garment you need to hold it away from you as shown in the photo below.

When working the stitches like that they naturally line up on the needle as they will on the finished product, so there’s no need to leave extra slack or constantly pull on the stitches.

Colorwork
If you’ve knit colorwork chances are you’ve had the problem of uneven stitches making the pattern look messy. There’s a simple solution to that!
Before you start the colorwork you need to decide what color you want to have as the main color. This color will stand out and be more visible while other colors will be in the background.
If you are like me and have the memory capacity similar to a shrimp write it down! This is the key to even looking and neat stitches when working with more than one color.
What you need to do is to always hold your main color at the bottom. If you are holding one thread at a time and picking them up as you knit them, you need to make sure that you alway pick up the main color from the bottom and the rest of them from above the main color.
If you manage to keep this consistently throughout the whole project you will end up with a very tidy looking yoke!

I hope this has been helpful, I will keep you posted on any future tips I come across and work for me. Also, if you know of one please share it with me in the comments section!

Happy knitting!

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