I can’t quite remember where this idea came from, but in mid-March I wrote in a letter to a friend “we should have a knit-a-long during Lockdown”. She loved the idea, logged onto Ravelry and found a pattern that we’d both favourited – the Ursa Sweater by Jacqueline Cieslak. We decided to extend the KAL invite to some more knitters that I knew, and away we went: a group of four embarking on a new adventure … from our houses, at opposite ends of the county.
The Ursa probably needs no introduction. With 1305 projects on Ravelry, and over 2400 tags on Instagram, Ursa is very popular. It has a wide, boxy shape and is cropped with full length sleeves (my boyfriend’s dad said it has very long sleeves for a child… or a very short body for an adult!) and is knitted in chunky wool. What makes it stand out is the truly lovely detailing in the way of half-brioche stitch which follows the seamlines (although it’s knitted seamlessly) and forms triangles at the bottom of the front and back.
After agreeing on the pattern and participation, it took a wee while for us all to get our wool, although Hazel and Laura had suitable in their stash. After becoming a bit bamboozled by too much choice, I chose a natural-coloured wool – Taupe in Ecological Wool by Cascade Yarns. I love the delicate grey/ brown tones and it’s super squidgy and soft. Initially I bought only one ball – it comes in a super-sized skein of 250g, but after reading about recommended ease I decided to go up a size to the third adult size (42) in the pattern. It was always going to be a risk, and in the end I had to buy a new skein prior to knitting the second sleeve. Unfortunate, bad planning, but never mind.
Having started on the 29th of March, I was finished by the 24th of April and I must admit that I don’t think I have ever knit a full size garment up so quickly. Part of that was the inspiration from the lovely chat that we had going – it was so good to have a Covid-19 ‘escape’. Part of that was due to being furloughed (sitting in the sunshine crafting, don’t mind if I do), and part of it was due to knitting a cropped jumper on size 6.5mm needles in a chunky wool!
Overall it came together very well. Kirsty finished very quickly indeed, and chose a Katia Peru wool in colour 14, adding that the addition of the alpaca was a bonus for increasing softness. She knitted the size 38 and used just a wee bit of her fifth ball. The colour is a lovely mossy green, and from the pictures looks truly delectable. And just check out that stitch definition on the half-brioche. Absolutley beautiful.
Laura chose a wool from her stash – a Rowan Chunky 100% pure new wool in shade 809. It’s a deliciously rich ruby colour which will look wonderful once completed. She also chose to knit the size 38, and used her Addi 6.5mm interchangeable needles.
And Hazel chose a local (to us) wool, Uist Wool Dochas which is aran weight, so she adjusted her needle size up to 7mm needles to get gauge. It’s a gorgeous two-toned wool which is made from a real mix of breeds due to being one of Uist Wool’s sustainability mixes. This too is knitting up beautifully and I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished article!
It’s fascinating seeing these all together, to see how the yarn holds the stitches, and the depth of the colours. Two natural colourations, two dyed and they all look utterly gorgeous. It shows the diversity of the pattern, as well as how beautifully unique we can make our handmade clothes: making sure they are perfectly adapted to our own style and personalities.
I made few changes to the pattern during the knitting, although I did add another two rows at the underarms, which I am doubtful I needed. I didn’t add any length to the body. However, I am tall and long-limbed, so I made sure to make my sleeves long enough. I also wanted to add further detailing at the cuff – something I had seen on Instagram, but I have failed to save the original post about this – if anyone knows where the idea came from please let me know.
To achieve my desired look, I started widening my half brioche column two inches from where I wanted the sleeve to finish. But instead of doing this every round, as with the front and back triangles, I widened every second round to prevent it making its way round the whole sleeve. I love this additional detail, and think the way it sits really pretty – I made sure to block it so that the plain back is longer (23″ in length) than the decorative inside of the arm (22″). It gives a very subtle medieval touch to the sleeve, I think, even if it’s only me that would ever make that connection.
And for the finished item? What do I think about it? Well, it is true love. This past week it’s been such lovely weather that I’ve rarely had a jumper on, but when I have it’s Ursa that I reach for. It just seems to complement everything I love to wear, including my Lockdown clothes (non-fitting, loose-waisted, comfy, comfy, comfy) and pulls it together to look a bit polished.
Kirsty feels the same, saying that she cannot overemphasise how much she loves the jumper – that it’s knit in the round (no seams!), and that the pattern gives many opportunities to adjust the fit to any body. And it’s so true. The designer is very careful about ensuring we get a perfect fit, and there’s options for bust darts as well as a very impressive size range. The way the raglan sleeves, arm and side body seams meet and join in half-brioche is such a beautiful design element – very satisfying indeed.
For me, a wee downside, however, is that my wool is piling already. *Insert crying emoji here*. I am so upset about this, as the wool itself is deliciously squishy, shows really nice definition and is just scrumptious. But it’s not going to be the hardest wearing.
Perhaps, instead of wearing it all the time, I should be keeping it for special, but really I am not inclined to fold this up and put it away just yet. If I knitted it again I think I will just choose a tougher wool. Interestingly, when it came to blocking, the wool stretched a lot. Like a ridiculous amount. More akin to a superwash wool than a pure wool. I had to be very careful pinning it out during the blocking process to get it to the right size, but I think I could have fitted three of me in if I’d tried it on while wet! It blocked really nicely though, out in the sunshine, only taking two days (thank goodness because I was impatient to get it on!).
Reading about the yarn on Ravelry is interesting. A lot of comments from people saying it doesn’t pile, that is does pile, that it’s itchy (mine is not), that it smelt (it did, but I love that sheepy smell!), that it felts easily (not in my experience), that it’s hard wearing (nope). So, I think a lot will depend on the colour, on individual treatment, and of course, your own personal skin sensitivities / preferences.
Well, apart from a slight disappointment with the wool, I really enjoyed the whole knit-a-long experience – it brought a wee break from the stress of Covid-19 when it was all kicking off in the UK. It was also great to be in more regular touch with distant friends, and to make something together-ish. Creativity and making has been a life-saver during this time, and I hope you’re finding similar escape. To my wee Ursa group, and beyond, I hope you all have a lovely day.
Oh, and welcome to Me Made May!