Weird Wool Wednesday: the life of a handspun sweater, from beginning to end.

Back in May 2009 I sheared half a sheep by hand, with non-electrical scissors. It’s Veluws Heideschaap from the flock in Loenen. My husband had to do the second half as I was not well enough. It was a marvelous experience!

You have to tap into your own “mammal-ness” to do this. You use your own body to communicate with the sheep’s body. Touching and breathing is very important. You create a rapport doing so and then the ewe allows you to manhandle it. You get to co-operate with another mammal, wordlessly. A lovely experience.

Here’s the shepherd walking a ewe to its destination by keeping it between his legs:

(Those are adult cows near the flock, a natural landbreed: Heidekoeien. They come in fantastic colourings and are very healthy. The ultimate and perfect cow, in my opinion.)

At the end of the day we went home with two fleeces, here’s one washed and one not:

I was just learning to spin and I spun this:

322 grams, 483 meters in a thick and thin single,

Sturdy but not scratchy yarn, surprisingly. With a nice gleam. From an ewe called Stientje. (All the ewes were called Stientje in that flock, it made it easier for the shepherd.)

In February 2013 I strived to knit a Stientje sweater in a month. I didn’t succeed, maybe because back then I was still brainfogged and not very relaxed. But I did manage to surround myself with a friendly environment and post to the blog regularly. And I used a handspun yoke in colours that suit my face (Winter-type) and that were chosen especially for me by Passe-Partout:

On the 3rd of March 2013 I finished Stientje sweater. I was so happy with the project! Resonating the sheep shearing and the spinning and a pleasant month of February which in other years usually had me depressed:

Feeling connected to sheep, nature and the history of knitting I wore my sweater with pleasure every day!

Albeit a little less so after I got an unfriendly comment about it from a Dutch knitter.
As a group, we were having a technical discussing about yokes and how they can play optic tricks with breasts and I used this picture as an example:

He said that, as a fashion educator, he though my yoke was very ugly.

Now, he just could have left out the word “very”, I feel.

That comment stuck with me for a long time.
But it didn’t stop me from wearing the sweater. Although now mostly at the cabin and not in the city.

In November 2014 I separated the body from the yoke because it had become too ragged. That’s a soft spun single for you. It pills. Heideschaap has a long staple and when it comes loose from the thread it floats and catches dustbunnies. Ragged.

The yoke went on to become Februari sweater, marrying some Irish Donegal Heather Yarn. The Stientje body became a seatwarmer for the cat, on the bench, outside on the porch.

There is has been for years, through Summer and Winter. Various animals have enjoyed it including birds and a ferocious squirrel who tried to tear it apart for nest lining.

The sweater withstood all these attacks marvelously. Which is why I thought of it when we had some trouble recently with another animal attack…

Let me take you out on our meadow this early morning, our meadow with an exotic tree on its horizon:

It’s the fig I got for my birthday last year.

There are already figs on it! Five of them. It’s happy on the spot that we choose for it. I take that as personal feedback.

A real fig, in the middle of Dutch farming landscape:

As you can see it’s a true knitter’s fig, it’s wearing a sweater:
A tree wearing Stientje sweater?!

You know I’m not the one for decorative yarning. Yarn bombing is not my style, I’m too lazy for knitting without practical use. So this tree sweater must have a purpose.

Somebody is vandalizing my fig.


I think it’s a deer rubbing its antlers. But it may also be a hare.
Sturdy Stientje will divert further attacks!

It’s a normal thing to have to protect your trees out in the country. This is the hare protector most of our apple trees wear:

The fig can’t wear these since it has too many stems sprouting upwards and they are too small for such a thing. Ideal for pieces of knitwear though!

A tree with sleeves, who’d have thought.

Yet some fruits need protecting from another mammalian vandalism:

This is my tortured gooseberry bush, it’s wearing chicken wire and A Big Stick to remind my husband that this is not a weed when he’s frolicking about with his strimmer. We’re getting mixed results. Perhaps I should adorn it with some bright coloured knitwear.
Preferably in eye searing Landscape Dyes Kingfisher…

that’ll be the bright turquoise on the left:
pic by Wingham Wool Work



February sweater ends in November.

This is my February Sweater Stientje back when it was fresh off the needles:

Made from a single handspun Veluws Heideschaap with a yoke of handspun in colours that compliment my face.
I made it in February 2013 and have worn it a lot since then. The Heideschaap grew very ragged. Probably because it’s a single. Singles don’t hold the fibres very well.

I did wear it all the time, especially when working outdoors. It got dirty beyond washing. I love this sweater. I use it.

But nowadays the sweater is too ragged. I can’t look at myself anymore when I wear it….
As I’m stalled on the smurf minty sweater a bit (gotta thing about button holes) and have lots of the white Donegal heather yarn left, this is what happened today, November 30th 2014:

This is the sweater this evening: the first few rows of a new body and Lillepoes happy with her new blanket:

End of February: no sweater

Aww, sweater Stientje did not get finished before March the first.

I did finish the second sleeve (not too tight) and opted for a more sympathetic border. With this bulky yarns just binding off is an option. With smaller yarns it is not because the stockinette stitch will make it curl.

Not having enough brain power to think about the collar properly I opted for reknitting the border of the other sleeve and of the body instead. That’s what took all evening.

This is the state of affairs on the brink of the new month:

yes, that left sleeve does look a bit tight…

the right sleeve (seen on the left in the picture) is done with the two yarns held together. It is softer and a tad thicker than the left sleeve (seen on the right). The left sleeve has not been stretched here yet, it has only been reknitted for the last 10 centimeteres and binded off. It is coarser than the other sleeve. I don’t have very friendly feelings towards is. So I’ll just finish the border of the body tonight. Later I’ll stretch it all and try it on. Let’s say in the morning, when I am more level headed. Presumably 😉

Then I’ll make some decisions about the collar too. I already have the yarn skeined for it.

Well. So. I have to face the fact that I’ll be knitting a Februari sweater in March. Luckily I now remember that on Sunday I have a one hour car ride to make. I need a simple round and round project for that. If I manage to think about the collar enough before we leave I could knit it in the car.

I also need a simple project for when we arrive in the city and I flop on the couch and vegetate for the rest of the evening. So there, sweater time planned. I feel much more organized already! Let March begin!

other plans I have for this month are:

  • knit Peabody Sweater
  • knit orange mitts for my aunt and for me
  • knit a lace shawl with beads in metal colours. I want spikes.
  • buy luxureous yarn for a sweater (please understand this is an exercise in not opting for the cheap version for once. I seldom value myself enough to spring for the good stuff. This month I am going to.)
  • twice. Once on Saturday the 2nd and once on Friday the 29th. When spoiling yourself, practice.
  • design and knit a block for the KarmaKnusDeken blanket

hihi, look at the great labels this girl sells:

by SublimeStitching

Stientje yes or Stientje no?

today we’re going to find out. There’s half a sleeve and the collar to be done. There’s not a lot of knitting time today. It’s going to be close!

If you are wondering why there are TWO strands of yarn on my knitting needle, that is because the third and fourth ball of yarn were spun much and much thinner than the first and second. There must have been months between the spinning of the two.

I tried knitting with one strand but it would not work. Two works, even if the fabric turns out a bit thicker than that of the other sleeve.

Also…. I may have knitted that first sleeve a bit too tight….

when will I learn?

(the collar needs some deciding still, how to decrease, how to raise the back more than the front, which needles. So really, it is going to be close. Especially since I may not have enough brain power left later on in the day.)

Stientje Sweater, full steam ahead

So I ripped back to the coloured yoke and there I picked up the 193 stitches that were at the yoke. I interpreted the 10,75 st per 10 cm that I found previously as 10 st/10 cm just because I liked the numbers better and knitting stretches.

It means I need the stitchcount to be reduced to 130 stitches within two rounds of starting with the white yarn on these 193 stitches. That’s reducing about 60 stitches.

That’s nice because reducing 60 stitches means reducing every third stitch. So I will knit: *k2tog, k1, ssk, k1* and that would reduce about 60 stitches leaving me with about 130 stitches.

I did so and was eager to know if this was enough or too much but I couldn’t tell until the sweater was further along.

So I knitted two more rows and then separated for the sleeves. For this I put a second circular needle to about half of the stitches so I could easily put it over my head and around my body. I put on the yoke and chose based on the colours what part of the sweater I would prefer to be at the front. I chose a part with clear pink, to compliment my face (I’m a Bright Winter type)

Then I guessed, by eye and by tugging at the fabric, where about my sleeves should start and end. I marked those places with safety pins. I took of the yoke and made sure the amount of stitches between the pins were the same. I leveled the numbers.

I picked up the knitting needle and knitted to the first pin, then I put all the stitches between the pins on a piece of string. I cast on 4 stitches (forward loop) and knitted on to the next pin (the 3rd one). Put all those stitches on a string, casted on 4 stitches and knitted 4 rounds.

Then I put half of the stitches on a second circular needle and put on the yoke-now-sweater-to-be to see if I had guessed right for the sleeves and the amount of stitches.

I had not. It was too tight, the cast on stitches at the underarm stretched too much and it also seems I did not have enough stitches at the front.  But it was hard to see with only four rounds knitted…

So I ripped back to where the sleeves were on their pieces of string. Casted on 8 stitches in stead of 4. Worried a bit more and increased one stitch on either side of the front. I knitted 8 rounds and tried it on again for fit.

Now it’s right.

I can now continue knitting untill I pass my bossom and it’s time to think about bustdarts. all this above took me about 4 hours I think. Knitting with needles 7 mm means this is fást.

Sweater Stientje: stop typing, start frogging.

so, I felt friendly towards Stientje again. I’d really like to finish this sweater in February. This is on big needles and I knit best under pressure so it is do-able. (Normally a sweater will take at least 40 hours of straight, simple knitting with 80 hours being more common. And that’s even without cables or colourwork or having to reknit because you think wishing will make a sweater fit.)

I measured the gauge of my knitting at various places and it comes at about 10,75 st per 10 cm, overall.

I then put the measuring tape around my body and my upperarms, it’s where a yokes sweater would separate for the sleeves. It reads at about 130 cms, sitting comfortably around me.

13 x 10,75 = 140 stitches will do the trick at that point. I counted what I knitted and my stitchcount at that place is about 180…..

no wonder it’s sitting verrrrry comfortably around my body, there’s about 16,5 centimeters of positive ease! Normally 5 centimeters is considered generous.

no wonder I had to decrease like crazy to create the illusion of a waist…. which I did not succeed in, by the way. The sweater is now down to my hips and still has not got any suggestion of waist shaping.

look, bustdarts and waist decreases but still: plenty of space.

so. Best thing to do is rip back to the coloured part (again) and adjust the change from the coloured part to the white part and make it so that there are 140 stitches before I start to knit seriously with the white yarn. The way to do that is: knit one white stitch into each coloured one (to make the transition smooth) and in the next row: decrease as many as necessary.

here’s one more picture showing the principle of a yoked sweater: you increase at a steady rate of 4 stitches every row. This is the rate at which knitting forms a circle.

It really is quite an elegant way of making a sweater.

Once the circle is wide enough you put some stitches one a piece of thread, these will become the sleeves. You then carry on but without increasing, you make a tube which will become the body of the sweater.

(of course there are things that require tweaking, if you are into the higher art of knitting a well fitting sweater. With me, for example, I have to increase enough in the front and in the back due to a glorious bossom and a broad back to carry it. But I do not need those increases in the sleeves since I do not have very big upper arms. So I place my increases accordingly)

(There’s also the risk of having a bulk of fabric at the front, right where the underarm start. A busty gal would continue increasing to cover up her bossom but would end up with way too much fabric, even if she kept a lot of the increases away from the sleeve part, that will accumulate at that underarm divide. With a yoke sweater you have to place those increases with thought and you have to adjust the rate of increases once you about 7 inches from the neck line.)

(With a raglan sweater -that has the same rate of increases as a yoke sweater but places them at a fixed point namely along a line that points straight to your armpits- busty gals have to think twice because raglans will nearly always create a bulge of fabric at the armside, near the armpit. That’s why I prefer set in sleeves myself.)

(Besides, a busty woman really does not need a broad horizontal line form shoulder to shoulder emphasizing how broad they are and the two curves that add to the broadness. Well, rules are to be broken as long as you know what you are doing. I know that by wearing a yoked sweater, I emphasize my bossom and broad shoulders.)

anyway. stop typing, start frogging.

Hiding from my sweater

so sweater Stientje needs some decisions. For one, she wants to know wether I set the twist on the two skeins she will eventually need for the sleeves. (I have no idea…)

She’d also like to know if I checked gauge (no) because her body seems to grow very very wide as I knit it. I already noticed last weekend and have ripped back to the yoke and reknit the body. Without checking gauge (I just forgot, how silly can I be?)

Even though I decreased a lot of stitches it still seems very wide. Which is why I remembered Gauge. Which I just checked. It is 10 or 12 stitched to the 10 centimeters. I should do some simple math that will tell me if what I have knit is too wide. I can see that it is, I don’t need Math to tell me. Math and Gauge are two obnoxious guys.

So I pretended I didn’t see Stientje sitting on the couch with two obnoxious guys on either side and instead I did this:

It’s the blanket we are designing together in my favourite group over at It’s the KarmaKnusDeken, the Cosy Blanket by the Dutch Karma Group.

49 members each design one block and each week one is released and we all knit that one. I started the blanket together with the others in week 1 of 2013 but I chose the wrong yarns. Last Monday I pulled all my stash out of it’s cave and spread it around the room to make a better choise

I made some swift choices:

  1. no sockyarn but soft, luxureous yarns
  2. no variegated yarns. they obscure patterns.
  3. no thick yarn because I’m a small person and smaller blocks will yield a smaller blanket/shawl to wrap myself in
  4. knit on 0,5 mm smaller needles as ‘normal’ people do
  5. knit from stash
  6. buy or dye yarn if you need it

I ended up choosing some sportsweight yarns in warm colours: red, yellow, orange and green.

After a few false starts to find the right needle size and accompanying yarns I knitted blocks on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Then on Friday the new design was presented, the one on the last picture. All cables. It took al of Friday to knit it.

So from now on, one block per week. At the end I will block them all and sew them together using the orange yarn. They will not all have the same dimensions and I will fix that with orange yarn.

Orange yarn fixes everything!

Weird Wool Wednesday: Stientje on the train

I was on the train, knitting on my Stientje sweater.


My knitting distracted people from their phones and game devices, I noticed lot of glances and some people just got lost in the rythmic movement of my hands (one of the many reasons why knitting is good for you: repetitive movement is soothing for busy brains)

anyway, there came a moment that I peeled off my outer clothes to try on the yoke+sleeves to see if I needed to start the vertical bust darts. In a packed train compartment I sat there, in a nest of my coat, shawl and other sweater, and I wurmed my head through the neck opening and put on the yoke.

People about fell over when the formless heap of wool in my lap magicly became a sweater-in-progress!!

Especially the guy right next to me, he literally moved his body back to get a better look, with wide eyes and a broad smile. Magic! On the train!


On the way back a group of women sat around me and they, not being knitters themselves, were happy to educate me. I happily share their lessons with you since I know you are always on the lookout for more wooly knowledge:

1. Norwegian sweaters cannot be washed. Yes they are expensive but no they cannot be washed. Even the drycleaners do not have a special treatment for them.

2. You have to know exactly how many stitches to cast on with a sweater because a sweater cannot be knitted smaller. It cán be knitted bigger, but not smaller. So beware.

so there you are.


here’s how I travelled the rest of my way: incognito and wielding sharp points. I was not educated by strangers much after looking like this:

February Sweater: start

here’s the start.

I did a provisional cast-on and started with the coloured yarn right away. This has two reasons. One is that I usually make a mistake in determining how much increases a round yoke needs. This way I can shift the yoke up or down the sweater, depending on where it fits best. Later on I’ll pick up stitches and work upwards, towards the neck. It’s easier to adjust the right fit then.

Second: I want to knit with the nice colours. Now!

Finally, a picture that shows the actual colours!

After knitting the yoke downwards I’ll pick up the thick and thin ‘Stientje’ yarn. I probably adjust needle size for that. I definitately will adjust stitch count. I’ll do this as I knit along. I don’t feel like doing calculations right now, not when I have not even started knitting yet. I want to get my hands on yarns first, get a feel for how it knits up.

After that I will add a border at the top, for my skinny little neck that feels so cold on most days.. Picking up the provisional cast on and working upwards will give me the freedom to make any border I feel like. Perhaps this sweater turns out so warm I want an open neckline. Perhaps I’ll feel giddy and want a frilly border. We’ll see. For now I am happy not to think abou tthat yet and just start knitting with these colours.

project page on Ravelry here

Cast on 60 stitches with needles 4mm
Increase 4 st every row, scattered randomly and evenly. This is the standard increase rate for a round yoked sweater. Or a round shawl. Or a round table cloth. Usually this is done by increasing 8 stitches every second row but it comes down to the same thing.

Provisional cast on: stitches on just a piece of string.