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Diana Twiss of 100 Mile Wear


The story of the Rose Ptarmigan Sweater

Hand holding a rose coloured lipstick in the same colour as the sweater behind it.

 A while back, my sister Laura designed and published the Ptarmigan Pullover. It’s a sweet sweater with simple lines and an enticing lace panel down the sleeve. I’d been looking for a sweater to knit, and this became my focus. I need to clarify that I didn’t choose this sweater because it is my sister’s design. For that kind of loyalty, I could have gotten away with simply purchasing the pattern to show my support. But I wanted to make it.

 I know Laura, and she knows clothing and the human form. She also knows knitting. When you put all that together, you have a terrific combination. I had absolute faith that Laura would provide a comfortable and fashionable fit. So, I launched into the making of this sweater. And for me, that started with making the yarn.

 In addition to being a knitter, I am also a spinner. I started spinning over 20 years ago due to frustration at the cost and quality of commercial yarns that were available to me.

 When I first saw the sweater design and Laura’s test knits, I started getting a colour in my head for the yarn. I’d been working with reds, oranges, and magentas, continually excited by the blends I could get from them. With an earnest focus, I did some swatches. I started collecting bits and bobs from my studio, including several pinkish batts from previous colour experiments, sari silk, dyed Corriedale, and many other things in the red category in my fibre scrap bucket. I blended it all together on my drum carder and ended up with 320 grams of warm pink batts and 525 grams of cool pink batts. I planned for a marled yarn – to spin the warm pink into singles; and cool pink into singles – two-ply with each for a deep, rich salmon kind of colour.

Two Turkish Spindles loaded with rose coloured handspun with flecks of blues

 During my summer holidays, I spun the bulk of the fibre using my Ashford Traditional and 100 grams on Turkish Spindles, resulting in 1,136 m (625 grams) of 2-ply yarn, about a DK weight, plied on my Majacraft Rose. That took me about three weeks.

A spinning wheel bobbin loaded with rose coloured yarn with many flecks of colour.

 I wanted to finish the sweater before I returned to work on August 15 and faced other distractions. I already had an unfinished sweater languishing in my studio; I didn’t want to add to it. For the most part, I stayed true to each stage. The yarn was completed and wound into balls, ready to go by August 3. I started knitting the sweater (size three) on Friday, August 5th and finished it Friday, August 12. I used 708 m of yarn. It weighs 390 grams.

Six hanks of plied yarn drying outside.

 The sweater begins with a tubular cast-on. It’s a beautiful way to knit a durable, stretchy edge for a sweater. I followed the YouTube links and learned how to do it, but I lacked the confidence to launch into a 92-stitch cast-on I had no guarantee would look good.

A detail of the lace motif along the sleeve.

 So, I did a backward loop cast-on that takes less than two minutes to cast on 92 stitches, then did knit one, purl one, as the first base round of the edge. It’s not as elegant as the tubular cast-on, but it worked just fine. And I was on my way. 

Diana's daughter, Laura's niece, Georgia Rose with her back to us showing off the volume of the oversized knit.

 The pattern requires concentration in the first few inches, at least until you get into the rhythm of the increases for the body and sleeve shaping, the lace work, and the short rows! And then it’s delicious, repetitive knitting, especially once you set aside for the sleeves.

Georgia Rose 3/4 pose showing off the right side of the sweater and the sleeve detail. She is blonde and is wearing a ball-cap and light coloured jeans and is standing against a red painted wall.

 Once I finished knitting it, I wove in loose ends and washed the sweater. I roughed it up a bit while washing as I wanted the handspun yarn to bloom. Some of the fibres I used in the batts were from sheep breeds that have a lot of crimp in their fibres. Roughing up the fibres will not only allow the crimp to return and make a bouncy yarn, but it will mildly lock some of the fibres together as in felting, or to be accurate, ‘fulling’ as you are working with spun fibres. Roughing up the sweater in the rinse stage helps the handspun to bloom and helps the stitches settle into their place in the fabric.

Purchase your Ptarmigan Pullover here

 It’s a well-written pattern that results in a comfortable oversized sweater that does not look one bit sloppy. I love how the lace pattern moves into the rib pattern on the cuffs and other subtle and elegant features. It’s a winner.

 

 

 

Diana Flurey Twiss started writing about her adventures of being a fibre artist, focusing on local fibres, and teaching fibre arts in 2010.

Read her experiences on her www.100MileWear.com and follow her on Instagram


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