Five things I learned knitting Bressay (and the finished article)

My Bressay is done. I thought I might never write that sentence! I began this sweater in … April 2019 as a knitalong with my pal Jenni. By the time Willa arrived on the scene in October, the plain portions of the body and sleeves were long done, but the colorwork (which starts before the sleeves and body are joined for the yoke) was nonexistent. And I figured it’d remain that way for quite some time. But I slowly chipped away at it and now, five months after Willa joined the family, the jumper is done. I’m calling that a win!

I’m pretty excited I’ve finished this sweater. Willa, less so.

In a minute, I’m going to tell you just how much I love this sweater. This is by far the biggest colorwork project I’ve done, with the most colors, so first I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

1. There’s a better way to splice, and I’m using it on every colorwork project from here on out, forever and ever.

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This sweater is knit out of Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift, a 100% wool, woollen spun yarn … it’s practically begging to be spliced! But if I’m honest, splicing always causes me a bit of anxiety (ever since I had a splice come undone 6 inches back in a colorwork Lopi sweater). I often avoid it or think of it as a technique that’s really hard to get right. So when I began the colorwork sections, I was splicing when I could really focus on it — which was for maybe 1 in 5 color changes — and using the method I’d learned ages ago. And then I had another splicing tragedy — a splice came undone several 300+ stitch rounds back. At which point I paused, watched this AC Knitwear video and kicked myself for not doing it sooner. Jen’s method, which involved folding a ply from each yarn back on itself (which I had never done before) results, for me, in a much more secure join — and lots less splicing anxiety. I used it for the last portion of the yoke (you can see in the below photo there are almost no ends left to weave in the final section near the neck) — and I will never not splice again. Because life is too short to weave in this many ends if you can avoid it.

2. When you’re knitting a project that involves 11 shades, you should probably swatch …

This is pretty self explanatory. Bressay features ten contrast shades, in addition to the main color. I loved the original but wanted to try to pick my own colors (I had a lot of fun doing it with my lovely friend Jenni at Northern Yarn!) While I checked gauge in stockinette, I couldn’t bring myself to check my yoke colors … it just seemed like such a big undertaking! As a result, I got to the middle section of the yoke and ended up being unhappy with some choices … and belatedly doing a mini swatch! I probably would have saved myself some time if I’d just done a great big swatch to begin with!

3. … but if you don’t, it’ll probably be alright.

All that being said though, the decision to not swatch almost worked out fine. I used the first sleeve as a swatch and was prepared to rip back and tweak (which I did). When I started questioning some choices on the yoke, I did some quick duplicate stitching to test a minor color swap before I committed to reswatching and ripping out. The great thing about Spindrift is the beautiful heathered shades meld together really nicely, making choosing many colors to go together a bit less daunting!

4. Stitch markers are your (my) friends.

I kept getting to the end of majorly long rounds only to find I’d made a one stitch mistake that I’d then have to go hunting for. It should have occurred to me earlier, but using stitch markers to mark off the colorwork repeats made making mistakes a lot less likely, and finding them when they did happen much easier.

5. If you care about color dominance, you better keep some notes!

This is something else that is probably obvious, but I didn’t note which color I was keeping dominant in the charts when I started (because I would definitely remember, right?) As I carried on, it wasn’t always obvious to me what I’d done when it came time to repeat charts — small notes would have helped!

On a personal level, finishing this project has been a really lovely reminder that I can still complete bigger, more complex (for me at least!) knitting projects, it just might take a bit longer. I was worried I might never finish this jumper if I didn’t complete it before Willa came, and now it’s done … and I just adore it! All the dithering over colors, the tweaking, the stitches eked out here and there have been so worth it … this sweater just makes me so very, very happy!

Project details

Pattern: Bressay by Marie Wallin, from her book Shetland. (Side note: If you have the book, it’s worth emailing and asking for the digital copy — I did that and printed out enlarged charts, which I found really helpful).

Yarn: Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift. Pattern and yarn both from my lovely local, Northern Yarn. Kate’s got a fabulous range of Spindrift; it’s so nice to be able to go and play and choose colors in person, especially when so many are involved!

Modifications: I kept poor notes on my needle choices, but I went up one or two needle sizes for the colorwork sections, even though the pattern doesn’t advise it, as I know my colorwork knitting is always much tighter than plain stockinette. I also added a smidge of short row shaping after the completion of the colorwork yoke — I’m really happy with how they turned out. I swapped all the 1×1 ribbing for 2×2 ribbing. You can see all the colors I used and my rather paltry notes over on my Ravelry project page.

Willa’s unimpressed.

I made the second size, and I am so pleased with the easy fit of this. Loose, lightweight but warm (how I love the fabric that Spindrift creates!) … I think it’s going to be the perfect nearly year round sweater here in the northwest of England!

Finally a smile!

I’m not sure there’s much more to say about this, other than I love it, I think I’ll be wearing it tons, and it was a great learning experience! Oh and my adorable little assistant is wearing her lovely Antler Cardigan, a special gift from our lovely friend Jen — the pattern is by Tin Can Knits, and it was knit in ever-so-luxurious Something to Knit With Aran. Willa’s just grown into this, and I love putting her in it!

Hope wherever you are you are well, safe, and taking care … and have plenty of knitting to see you through whatever the next few weeks bring! Thanks as always for stopping by!

xo K

 

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8 thoughts on “Five things I learned knitting Bressay (and the finished article)

  1. Love love love the sweater and I was congratulating myself with only two colours for each pattern – maybe I’ll have a go at this one next! Willa gorgeous of course and nice to see you looking great too!

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  2. Wow! Even with a baby, you’ve gotten much more knitting done than I have in the last year 🙂 So good to see you, meet baby Willow, and get to learn all about that gorgeous sweater! I’ll keep your splicing trick close in case I ever get the urge to master color work myself 😀

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  3. Whoa! The sweater is gorgeous! And what patience you have to see if from start to finish. I don’t think I’d have it in me, although I’d like too. I have a sweater that needs to be pieced together and it’s just been sitting there for a long time (I won’t mention how long). Anyway, nicely done!

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