Here, as promised, is Mel’s Boreal – which we photographed in the palm houses at the Botanical Gardens.

Mel used two shades of teal for her sweater (Artesano aran shades c740, and 8316) , and reversed the light-on-dark, dark-on-light order of the colourwork. The effect is more subtle than the high-contrast, highly-festive look I’m sporting in my sample.

Mel is wearing exactly the same sweater size as I am, but with slightly less ease. We are similarly petite, but have very different body shapes: while I am narrow of shoulder and meagre of chest, Mel is not. On her sample, the shaping of the sweater is shown to advantage, but there is less room for layers underneath. Mel is also quite proportionately long-waisted, and added a little length (the pattern gives instructions for where and how to do this). If, like her, you intend to lengthen your sweater, you should factor in yardage additional to the quantities specified in the pattern. (She used an additional 14 yards of the paler teal).

I’ve been receiving a lot of queries from knitters who describe themselves as colourwork novices, who are wondering how ‘easy’ they would find this sweater. I would say that, because of the nature of the colourwork, which involves long floats in aran-weight yarn, it is best to feel fairly confident with your preferred colourwork technique before you embark on this project — it is probably not a beginner’s sweater. If you are uncertain, to help you along, here are my top tips to achieve the best look on the colourwork of this sweater:

1) Swatching really is essential to achieve the best fit. I would be inclined to take the time to check your tension on both a decent-sized blocked swatch of plain stockinette and a representative blocked sample of the colourwork pattern. If the fabric is drawing in at all during the colourwork, you may wish to go up a needle size when working these sections of the sweater. Because it involves two layers of aran-weight yarn (cosy!), over the colourwork sections the fabric is quite dense, and the sweater’s inside-capacity is reduced. Be sure to follow the instructions about sizing in the pattern, and consult the schematic carefully for detailed measurements.

2) I generally don’t weave my floats at all – but this sweater is the exception to the rule. Because the pattern involves long stretches of a single colour, I would suggest that it is absolutely necessary to weave your floats. Do this every 6 stitches in a different place on each round to avoid the weaves stacking up and showing to the front of the work.

3) When you are carrying a long float, fan the stitches out a little on the right hand needle before working the next stitch in the contrasting colour. This slows down the pace and flow of the knitting, but is particularly useful if your tension tends to be tight.

4) Always work the ‘trees’ and ‘snowflakes’ as the foreground, or dominant colour (if you are working two-handed, the dominant yarn will usually be in your left hand, or if one handed, will come from underneath). This means that you will need to switch your yarns around at the charts’ mid-way point.

5) If your tension is a bit lumpy and uneven, try turning your work inside out — the knit side will still be facing you (allowing you to work as usual from the right side), but the floats will be stretched around the work, allowing the tension to ease up. This is a particularly useful technique for small- diameter knitting (like sleeves).

6) Block like crazy. In the pattern, I suggest steam-blocking, a technique which the Artesano Aran seems to particularly like (both Mel and I found that, during the blocking process, our stitches seemed to naturally soften and fill-out their allotted space in a very pleasing way).

7) happy knitting!

PS I’m really enjoying reading about your Wintery favourite things.

38 thoughts on “boreal tropical

  1. My favourite wintery thing is the first day of good snow on the Gatineau ski trails just north of Ottawa, Canada. Not only is it stunningly beautiful but everyone you meet on the trail is incredibly happy.


  2. this is a beautiful version of your sweater…. really gorgeous colours. Been thinking more about what a wonderful knitting book you could produce, full of tips on sizing, techniques, yarns, as well as patterns – must be a market for it. Also hoping that Tom and Bruce are helping you read all those Xmas comments – never have I seen a blog post attract so many replies!


  3. i was wondering how the pattern would translate to a low-contrast color scheme, and here it is. Thanks! And thanks for the close-up which shows the subtle heathered beauty of the light teal. Mel looks great in her sweater, as do you in yours.


  4. Such a beautiful sweater! -And I love the cactus garden where your friend is posing. The greys, shades of green, and rust are a gorgeous back drop.


  5. I love both versions, but as a complete novice colorwork knitter was wondering is we could have a wee peek at the undersides? The tips you’ve given are great but pictures would really help, unless that’s a problem with trade secrets or something, then I totally understand.


  6. Beautiful!!! Will you be offering the pattern for children? My daughter is 7 and we’d love to make a mommy/daughter winter sweater :) Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones :)


  7. I know that I’ll never be able to knit your patterns as I have a butterfly mind and can only do simple knitting but I just wanted to tell you how happy it makes me to read your meticulous knitting notes. I’m so glad that there are clever people like you keeping these skills going…I’m a joyful observer! Well done on creating such beautiful things! xxxx


  8. Oh a question on the sweater you mentioned as to the floats is there a way to see what the inside of the sweater looks like?
    Also I am a bit Plus size is there listings for a bigger bust? I know my shape goes for many adjustments as to arm and shoulder construction. I am wondering if this will distort the motifs? Any suggestions?


  9. WOW, that adds to the ideas for that sweater. Gorgeous colors of teal. I am not sure which I prefer, and would love to knit both! Might have one done in time for Christmas if I do nothing else….. but two? I highly doubt it, with my list of projects to get done. I do love those colors, and also the contrast of the sweater you’ve knitted and modeled. Showed this to my partner, and he said one word:


    Man of few words :)


    1. I showed this to my partner as well, and the response can be oosely translated as
      “That’s bloody beautiful” And this from a man who normally can’t separate one knitted sweater from the other :-)
      Seems this is a sweater that really appeals to men.
      Or maybe it’s the way it looks on Mel :-) But I agree. I think it’s beautiful too.


  10. Wonderful pattern. I’m also from Canada and my favourite thing about winter is sitting at home in front of a fire with a cup of tea (and of course some knitting) and watching snowflakes drift down. I love snow as long as I don’t have to go out in it or shovel it :-)


  11. That is possibly the most gorgeous combination of sweater pattern and colour choice I have ever seen. I would never have thought that two shades so close together could work so well, but it’s just a perfect wintry palette. Love love love love LOVE.


  12. Really lovely to see it in a different mix of colours. Thxs for tips as well. I’m not very confident about colourwork and have ripped so many things out because my colourwork always looks so tight!! Inspired now to have another go, espec as this Aran is one of my favs.


  13. While I loved the look of your high-contrast boreal, I personally couldn’t see knitting it for myself. But this subtle tone-on-tone? Right up my alley. Now I just have to finish up about a billion things before I can even consider knitting it…


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