by Beth Knarr
New York Sheep and Wool (aka Rhinebeck) takes place every year, and one of it’s strongest traditions is the Rhinebeck Sweater, where participants knit a sweater to wear around the festival.
Back in July, I decided that I MUST go to Rhinebeck this year. In the ensuing chaos of trying to find any available room and cajoling my non-knitting husband into joining me on this adventure (aka: help with the six hour drive,) I just plain forgot to make sweater plans.
Fast forward to the beginning of October, when Rhinebeck is a mere two weeks away. Instagram and Ravelry were both flooded with knitters’ in-progress shots of their Rhinebeck creations, from stunning, intricate fair-isle to cushy bulky cables, to faded everything. How could I resist the urge to join in? I HAD TO KNIT A RHINEBECK SWEATER!
Fortunately for me, a few things were in my favor:
- We had the perfect yarn in stock at the store.
- I had a pattern in mind that was both fast and easy.
- In the two weeks before Rhinebeck, I was taking a trip to California that included 12 hours on planes and 14 hours in cars, so I would have good blocks of distraction-free frantic knitting time.
And now for the important aspect of any good last-minute plan: details!
One of our new arrivals for fall was Cascade Eco+. The first thing you’ll notice about this yarn is that it comes in HUGE skeins. Each skein is 250 grams and 478 yards, which means you can complete an entire sweater in most sizes with 2 or 3 skeins. Longer yardage means less ends to weave in when changing skeins (a plus when time is of the essence.) Each of our colors comes with multiple skeins from the same dye lots, so no need to alternate between skeins. In my finished sweater, even I can’t tell where the first skein ended and the second color began…the colors are that identical! Did I mention that each skein is only $22.95…which means that if my crazy plan failed, i wasn’t left with hundreds of dollars worth of yarn and no Rhinebeck Sweater. As it ended up, my entire sweater cost less than $40, because I still have some of the second skein left over. This makes it a great option for a first sweater — if you end up with a sweater that doesn’t fit, or a pattern that gives you nightmares, you haven’t made a hugely expensive mistake. And this yarn is a workhouse — it can stand a gentle frogging and be ready for you to try, try again.
The suggested gauge for this yarn is 14-16 stitches per 4″ on a US 9-10 needle (5.5-6.0 mm.) Based on my swatch, I noticed the yarn blooms (grows larger) when blocking. The pattern gauge was 14 stitches per 4 inches, which I got on a size 9 needle (one size down from pattern recommendation to account for growth when blocking.) That swatch also produced a knit fabric with the drape that I wanted for my sweater. It’s always important to block a swatch! Before blocking, my gauge was closer to 15 stitches per four inches, but after blocking, the yarn relaxed to perfect gauge. Had I not blocked the swatch, and knit to 14 stitches per inch, my sweater would have grown too much during blocking and ended up too big.
There are three versions of this yarn, which all have the same yardage and gauge, but different names to denote different dye processes.
Cascade Ecological Wool: Undyed, in natural wool colors (ranging from creams to neutral grays and browns)
Cascade Eco+: Dyed
Cascade Eco+ Peruvian Tones: New line of colors which have a heathered tonal color on the cream base.
We have a great selection of all three types in the store, contact us for available colors! My sweater was knit with color 7098 “Merlot.”
Ravelry is a great tool for finding the perfect pattern on short notice. I knew what yarn I wanted to use, so I was able to look at other projects made with the yarn first, then to search their huge pattern database for sweater patterns, using filters to find only the patterns for aran-weight yarn. When I found the Unity Pullover, I knew this was the one. Originally published in the book “Finish Free Knits” by Kirsten Ten-Dyke, this top-down sweater features NO SEAMING, which was a huge plus given my short time frame. Plus, while I love knitting aspect, I’m generally not a huge fan of seaming. The benefit of top down sweaters is that you can try them on as you knit, and adjust the pattern accordingly (saving a lot of sad frogging and re-knitting time.)
What attracted me to the pattern was the cabled yoke. I love knitting cables – so much design element for deceptively little work. In this pattern, the cables get wider as the yoke of the sweater increases. The simple cable pattern was easy enough to knit on a plane and the charted instructions meant that I could always find my place, even after putting down my knitting during the pretzel-and-beverage service on the plane.
Sweaters knit in bulkier yarns can often feel, well, bulky. This pattern uses simple decreases and increases to create flattering waist shaping. As a bonus, these rows keep the pattern interesting when it comes to knitting the length of the body. This simple shaping made for a more feminine look to the finished sweater, and made me more confident to wear it in public.
The sleeves of the pattern are a bell sleeve, which means they stay the same size down to the wrist (rather than decreasing to created a sleeve fitted to the arm.) I like a bell sleeve, as it leaves my arms more free to move around (aka knit) and doesn’t catch on any bracelets, etc. I may be wearing. It would be easy to add decreases down the length of sleeve to change it to a fitted sleeve, and several Ravelrs have done so (again, the top down design helps, as you can try it on as you knit, and stop decreasing when the sleeve gets to a width you like.)
The pattern can be found here on Ravelry and purchased from Interweave’s website for $6.50. Well worth the price for the variety of sizes (30¾ (34¼, 37¼, 40½, 44, 46¾, 50¼) and the author’s attention to design detail. I knit the 40.5″ size.
The finished result:
After knitting on planes and automobiles, I was able to finish my sweater ten days after starting, just enough time to block and dry and take to Rhinebeck! I was very happy with the finished sweater–the fit was perfect, the yarn softened during the blocking process to be comfortable to wear against bare skin, and the design details made for an attractive pullover. I proudly wore the sweater to Rhinebeck, where I received lots of compliments from fellow knitters. In the end, I’m glad that I challenged to take on such a big project, even on a deadline, and finish the first sweater that I have knit for myself with such great results.