Elizabeth Zimmermann Colour work Yoke Sweater.

You may remember that back in May at the time of my last post my enthusiasm for anything craft related had left me. A family bereavement and notice of redundancy had really got me down. I did make a skirt in June but it’s not been worn mainly due to the miserable summer weather.

One thing that did get me enthused was Kate who blogs at Fabrickated and her adventures in knitting. Back in July Kate started a knit along to make an Elizabeth Zimmermann colourful yoked sweater. I decided to join in after I returned from holiday in August. Even though I couldn’t face sewing I felt I could get some pleasure out of giving this ago. I had never tried colourwork before so it was going to be a challenge.

To start with let me direct you to this post of Kate’s where she showcases some of the finished sweaters knitted by her readers. At the bottom of her post there is a link to all the 6 weekly posts in the knitalong. In these posts you’ll find everything you need to know if you feel like taking up the challenge.

The book Kate has been following is Elizabeth Zimmermann’s “Knitting without tears”. I found myself a second hand copy on Amazon for just over £5. The book was as new and looked like it had never been used. It has an inscription inside. Judging by the immaculate condition it was in I don’t think Amanda made any use of the present given to her by Irene. You don’t need the book as every thing you need to know is detailed in the knitalong posts.


It took me a while to decide on colours. Kate had done a great post on choosing colours and I loved the selection with the red and orange so this is the path I took.

I settled on a mid grey for the main colour and chose red, orange & taupe for the 3 colours in the pattern. I took ages choosing the quality of wool. For my first attempt I didn’t want to spend too much but neither did I want 100% acrylic. I choose a Stylecraft DK 75% acrylic 25% wool and the cost came in under £20. In fact I had bought more than I needed and was able to send 200gms back for refund out of the 500gms that I original bought in the grey.

So before I started I needed to learn how to do the colourwork. The advice on knitting colourwork is to knit on circular needles on the round so you are only ever doing a ‘knit’ stitch. So I cast on enough stitches for a 50cm circular needle which was the smallest length I had. EZ recommends that you learn to knit ‘continental style’ which is holding your yarn in the left hand. This then enables  you to have a yarn in your right hand and one in your left hand and the two balls of yarn will never get tangled. To learn the technique I found Knit Freedom which has great YouTube videos. I slowly got the hang of using my left hand – which feels very strange when you have only ever held your yarn in the right hand. Then once I had done a few rounds I started on the colourwork. Again Knit Freedom had a video tutorial.


So once I’d go the hang of the colour work and my yarn had arrived from Love Knitting I started by knitting a square to measure the gauge. It’s recommended that you test the gauge on the circular needle but I used single pointed as I didn’t want to knit more than necessary and I just wanted to get started on the real thing. My gauge worked out as stated on the label for the DK using 4mm needles. Once I’d worked out the maths for how many stitches I needed I started by knitting a rib. EZ adds on ribs for cuffs and hems once the garment is finished but I felt happier doing this first.

I knitted up to the armhole depth then I started on the sleeves. I knitted the whole length of the sleeves using 4 double pointed needles. The sleeves are shaped by adding a stitch either side of the underarm line every 5 rows until you have your required number of stitches – which is worked out as a percentage of the body stitches.

Once the sleeves are up to the armhole point the body and sleeves are joined together leaving a number of stitches at the underarm points on both the sleeves and the body. Then the fun starts with the colour work on the yoke.

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For simplicity I followed the pattern design in the book. it is a repeat over 4 stitches. Two points EZ makes about colour work is to only use 2 colours of yarn in a row and don’t carry the yarn more than 5 stitches. I did two rows of the orange circle as I really liked the colour and wanted more of it. The taupe didn’t work so well as the contrast between that and the mid grey is not so noticeable. But it’s not terrible. When I started the red colourwork it was taking about half an hour to do one circuit which was about 250 stitches, I did my first decrease after the red which reduced the stitches by about 1/3 so the orange knitted up faster.

One step to do before finishing is building up the back neck. This makes sense as on most garments the back neck is higher than the front neck. This is done by working ‘short rows’. 1 had 100 stitches around my neck. I worked on just the back 50 then picked up another 2 at the end of the first row then turned and knitted back picking up 2 stitches at the other end. I did this for 6 rows.  I chose to do the building up in stocking stitch the same as the body of the jumper but you could incorporate it into the rib.

P1060025 (1824 x 1368)

this is a photo of the right shoulder, you can see how the back neck has been built up.

I finished off with 5 rows of 1×1 rib then cast off. Twice. First time I cast off I started to the front of the left shoulder and when you knit on the round you get left with a step at the join. So I undid the cast off and took it back to the back of the left shoulder and started again.

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Cast off tail too far towards the front of the neck.

I read up about ‘blocking’ the jumper. I found conflicting advise over blocking acrylic some said no need, others said it should be done. But as this has 25% wool I went ahead. So I thoroughly wetted my jumper in warm water then put it between towels and rolled to get rid of excess water. Finally I pinned to a towel setting the chest and hem width. I’m no expert but I think this has worked OK.

P1060024 (1824 x 1368)

Yoke area after the blocking, you can tell that the stitches are laying flatter and smoother than in the photo with the cast off tail pre blocking.

The size has turned out exactly as I wanted. The body width is perfect, I wanted 34″ and got it. The sleeves are the right length and fit. I’m reasonably happy with the neck, maybe it could have been a bit lower and a little bit wider. But as a first attempt I am really pleased with this. Thank you Kate for inspiring me and many others to give this a go.I now understand colourwork and have got to grips with Continental style knitting.

Anyway…….You may remember that I was knitting a white jumper with a rainbow stripe running across the sleeves and chest. The enthusiasm waned after knitting the sleeves which have ended up too long. But I have knitted the back to the stop of the stripes. In fact I had knitted up to the beginning of the shoulder decrease when I decided the body was too long so I ripped it back and took away 5cm from below the stripes. I wish that I had known the EZ method of knitting a jumper before I started. I’m toying with the idea of starting again but using the method for the colourwork yoke sweater. I may just start on a sleeve and see how it knits up. Sounds a bit mad as I am nearly 3/4 there. Any thoughts?



Purl Alpaca Mayan Jumper – Downsized

When I was knitting the cable jumper for myself earlier this year my 9 year old was asking if I could knit her one. I couldn’t really face months of knitting another Aran jumper but didn’t want to disappoint. I had ordered myself the Mayan Jumper pattern from Purl Alpaca, I found this company from reading a post on Kate’s Fabricated blog. I showed my daughter this pattern and it was to her liking.

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With a fair bit of stocking stitch and simpler cables this looked like a reasonable quick knit. In fact I spent 5 weeks working on this, which after 3 1/2 months was a quick knit.

I didn’t go with the Purl Alpaca yarn. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that she would grow out of in a year and worst of all may not even like when finished. So I went for Paintbox yarns DK acrylic from Love Knitting. I struggled a bit with it just being too cheap, 4 balls for £9 and time will tell how it washes and wears. I wasn’t sure of the colour either but as she tells me, mustard is her 2nd favourite colour.

Now I did mean to knit a tension square but completely forgot. Because I was sizing down to a 26″ chest I studied the pattern and reduced stitches accordingly and started knitting away. It was very narrow, way too narrow! I then stopped and did a tension square and realised I was going to need a lot more stitches, I also found that knitting with size 4 rather than 4.5 needles gave the stocking stitch a much neater appearance. So I needed to order a size 4 60cm circular needle. Whilst I was waiting for my new needle I started on the sleeves which I knitted two at the same time on straight needles. This helped me sort out the issue of how many stitches I needed for the body as it was easy to see on the flat knitting how wide it was working out.

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Top knitting is the first attempt, you can see how small it is! Plus I’d made a mistake in the cable which I couldn’t live with.


When I got around to starting the body for the 3rd time – second time I only had done the rib before I thought that more stitches were needed – I found that following the stitch amounts for the size M actually gave me what I wanted.

I had to think carefully about the sleeve head shape and the armhole on the body, I just couldn’t follow the pattern as  ‘knit x amount of rows’ wouldn’t have worked out with the different yarn and smaller needles that I was using. The pattern had the measurements of the armhole depth so I followed that.

When casting off the neck the pattern advises to ‘cast off loosely’. Luckily I had my wits about me and remembered the stretchy bind off I needed when I knitted a pair of toe up socks. Jenny’s surprising stretchy bind off. In this method you wrap the yarn around the needle before each stitch, the extra stretch you get is really noticeable.

cast off edges (2160 x 1620)

The top sock shows the standard cast off method and the bottom sock shows the stretch cast off method

The body up to the armhole is knitted in the round on a circular needle. This is the first time I had done this and found knitting like this quite different from having straight needles. My only issue is when you need to start a new ball. I’m not sure of the best way of finishing off and starting. I made sure the join was at the side body and I when I came to sew in all the ends I knotted and wove the loose ends in. It looks OK but not perfect from the right side as you can tell that small area is just a bit thicker. I did Google this this but didn’t come up with any solutions. So I actually would prefer a side seam to finish the loose ends.

Anyway, the customer likes it. It’s better than I thought it would be, I was worried about the width and then about the length of the arms but it’s worked out fine. It doesn’t look it’s best being modelled with a royal blue netball dress.

I think I’ll make this later in the year for myself but will probably use a better quality yarn and will definitely do a tension square first. In fact I will never knit anything again without doing a tension square first!

What to knit next. At Christmas a friend bought me the Jamie’s family superfood cookbook and there is a picture of his wife Jools wearing a white jumper with a rainbow stripe across the chest and sleeves and I’m quite taken with it. Looking closely it seems as if the white area is stocking stitch and the stripes are purl, giving a different texture. It’s a basic crew neck pattern so I shall investigate and see what I can come up with.

As for sewing, I’m finding it hard to run sewing and knitting projects along side each other but I am slowly working on a shirt which if I try could be done by the end of the week.

Cable Knit Aran Jumper Completed

After 3 1/2 months of knitting, the jumper is finally finished. I got there in the end. I can’t even imagine how many hours have been spent on it!


I finished last weekend and tried it on and there was something not quite right and after thinking it came down to the size of the roll neck. The jumper has a bit of an oversized fit and I think the neck is just too small. So I’m going to re-do it. There’s a story to the neck so I’ll start at the beginning.

I decided that I’d knit the neck on a circular needle so I stitched up both shoulder seams ready. The rib areas on the jumper use 3.5 needles and I had a circular needle that was 4.5 which I thought would be OK to use. So starting at the left shoulder seam I picked up and knitted the stitches I needed all around the neckline. Because I’m not knitting to any specific pattern, just merging patterns together, I didn’t really know how many stitches were required. I knitted a few rows of rib and it just didn’t look right. What I hadn’t thought about was how long the circular needle was supposed to be and I was using one that was 80cm in length. It was just a massive hoop that was way too big.

I unpicked what I had knitted and didn’t know what to do next. I regretted sewing both shoulder seams together as if I hadn’t I could have knitted on straight needles then sewn the open shoulder and side of the neck up when finished. I even thought about unpicking the left shoulder seam. I sat with the knitting on my lap with a pair of scissors in hand staring at the seam trying to decide what part was the seam stitching and what part was actual knitting. Luckily common sense prevailed and I stopped myself from doing something stupid. Before I went to bed that evening I logged onto Love Knitting and ordered a 3.5 size 50cm circular needle.


When the needle arrived I picked up less stitches than the first time and used a whole ball of yarn to knit the neck. I would have made it a few cms longer but I wasn’t sure with knitting the rib on a circular needle how well and secure a join would be.

When it came to cast the neck stitches off I ending up doing it 3 times. First time I got half way and realised I didn’t have enough yarn left from the ball to do it. So I unpicked the cast off and knitted stitches ensuring I had enough yarn.

When I had finished I realised that I had started the cast off on the front of the neck, I thought I’d unpicked back to the left shoulder seam but obviously not. Knitting circular means there is a bit of a step which you can improve the appearance of when stitching in the ends but you wouldn’t want it in an obvious place. So had to unpick and it was 3rd time lucky.


What am I going to do about it? Well. There is a roll neck jumper in the pattern book which suggests knitting the neck on straight needles as a piece on it’s own and then grafting it on. I did read this but I haven’t grafted before, you knit a neck trim by picking up stitches around a neckline because that’s how I’ve always done it before….and I want to do it on a circular needle.

We have a new guy in senior management who last week in a getting to know you chat mentioned how one phrase he really dislikes is “that’s how we’ve always done it before”. Yep – guilty!

So, I reference the old beige jumper that I knitted years ago which has bigger neck, it measured 60cm around the top edge. The neckline edge of my new jumper was measuring 60cm and the top opening 48cm. So to make my new roll neck piece I measured how many stitches were in 10cm of width. Which was 24 then multiplied by 60 to get 144 stitches then I added a couple on for luck. So I have started knitting a separate piece.

I haven’t taken the first neck off yet, I’ll leave it until I’m sure I’m happy with the new neck. So if all goes well I’ll have an updated jumper to show you next week.

Pattern – a mish mash of patterns from  this book of patterns from Bergere De France.
Yarn – . recycled yarn from Bergere De France ordered from Love Knitting.