My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


What Goes Down Can Also Go Up

Starsong commented:
You mention it’s easy to downsize Aran sweaters – easy for you, maybe – but how about upsizing them? I have trouble finding even men’s sweater patterns big enough to fit me, let alone something for very Rubinesque ladies like me. Any tips?

Do the opposite of what I suggested for downsizing: add some spacer stitches in-between the cable motifs, and on either side of the sweater.

Penny asked:
OK, here’s my problem. (Blush) I can’t wear wool. I can knit with it but feel terminally scratchy, shivery, and unbearable wearing it, even over a t-shirt. So, I knit with cotton, often Rowan calmer, 1824, or whatever’s interesting online or at my LYS. Can you imagine making an Aran out of cotton? Any alternative suggestions?

Rowan Calmer works very well for cabled designs. You could definitely use that — great stitch definition.

If you wanna make cables from cotton, I’d say in general to go for a cotton blend — a yarn that has something added that will give it some elasticity.

Anyone else have any specific suggestions of yarns for Penny?

Ulli asked:
Since you mentioned Peace Fleece I have a question/comment. I purchased some for a sweater for DH. It has a considerable amount of dirt/dry grass/stuff in it–what the Peace Fleece folks call ‘veg’ and talk like it’s perfectly normal and acceptable. I pick it out as I knit–slowing the process and making it less than fun. I see so many comments about how folks love Peace Fleece, but I’m not so enchanted. Did yours have ‘veg’ and if so what did you do about it if anything?

I last used Peace Fleece in the late 1990s — I think I made that St. Enda in 1998. I don’t remember there being a lot of vm in the Peace Fleece, but it was quite a while (and many sweaters ago) so I can’t say for sure.

However, the Harrisville Flax & Wool that I used for the Halcyon Aran has the most vm I’ve ever seen in a yarn, bar none. What did I do? I picked a lot of it out as I was knitting.

Bits of straw in yarn don’t bother me in the least. If they are soft, I’ll leave them in the yarn. But a lot of the stuff in this yarn was like tiny hard twigs — stuff that would definitely poke you while you were wearing the sweater, so I pulled all the hard bits out as I knitted.

I noticed earlier this week at my lunchtime knitting group that after knitting with this yarn for half an hour, there were little bits of straw and dust all over the table in front of me.

Don’t get me wrong — I really like this yarn. I don’t mind fishing out bits of straw while I knit and I never have. On their website, Harrisville describes it thusly:

A single ply yarn with a loft spun twist that is warm and wonderfully lightweight.

But a word of warning — it’s easy to break the yarn. Well, not so much break, as pull apart. I accidentally did that once during the knitting of this sweater. Not while executing a cable twist, but by pulling on the yarn from the ball when I hadn’t realized I’d sat on it. It didn’t take much pressure to make the yarn just come apart.

Because of this, it occurred to me that this yarn would be totally unsuitable for sewing the garment together. Repeatedly pulling on it with a tapestry needle? Yeah, not so much. So I’m using a much finer wool to sew it together — Rauma Finullgarn. I’m using black — the yarn for the sweater is a very dark green, so that none of the green yarns I had laying around seemed dark enough.


Here’s the saddle, sewn very firmly with the Finullgarn in backstitch:


And here’s the finished sweater.


And the ubiquitous sweater-in-the-mirror shot:


And, of course, the ubiquitous Miss Lucy!



  1. Oh…I am the first commentator:-)
    Love the sweater, great texture!

  2. Penny, I’ve knit great texture-work with Rowan’s All Season’s Cotton. It’s got just enough give to make the process bearable and the sweaters go in the washer/dryer with no undue effects.

    Wendy, I love that you did saddles on your sweater, I’m trying that for the first time. Do you get a better fit that way? It looks like it!

  3. The sweater looks great. I’ve been eyeing Arans lately–I think I’m just about to start a cable-jag, and since I’ve never actually made an Aran . . . it seems a good time for it! Yours is just added incentive. (“Yeah, try it, Deb. It’s easy. EVERYbody’s doing it…”)

  4. Regarding Penny not being able to wear wool, many people who cannot wear wool can wear alpaca. It’s not for everybody with wool allergies, but it is worth a try.

    I suggest those with wool allergies try to find alpaca processed in North America or Australia since some South American fiber label laws allow non-camelid content in “100% alpaca” yarns.

    Because Penny mentioned cabled sweaters, I caution against 100% alpaca for heavy cabled sweaters. Alpaca may lack the fiber memory necessary for heavy cabled sweaters and heavy alpaca sweaters can be too warm to wear.

  5. Lion Brand Cotton-Ease, if you can get it, works great for cabling. It’s also the same gauge as Rowan All Seasons Cotton, so you have plenty of pre-written cabled designs.

  6. well if you arent completely against acrylic yarns you can use those. i have a budget so i use them a lot.
    plus they are machine washable.

    wendy i love Lucy.

  7. It’s uncanny! That avatar looks exactly like you and Lucy!

  8. Finullgarn holding it all together ๐Ÿ™‚

    That’s MY yarn, you know…

  9. beautiful job, i am currently knitting a dale
    cabled pullover for my oldest son(which has to be xlarge,) so i was interested in how you adjust the sizing,since my hubby will need one even larger, and too bad its not finished as the arctic weather blew in last night!

  10. Lovely, lovely Aran, Wendy!

    The proportions of this sweater are especially flattering. I’m guessing this baby will be a favorite if you ever have a normal winter again .

  11. Ooh, love it. That was a pretty quick one too!

  12. I am in love with Sweetgrass Wool and have knit several lovely sweaters from that yarn, spun from Targhee sheep (Montana). The yarn is cleaned and spun at a Canadian mill which uses a nonchemical cleaning process and a spinning mule. The result is a lofty yarn (with lots of plant bits which I pick out)… but a yarn which doesn’t even feel like wool. You can buy direct from them

  13. For Penny – I’ve made a textured sweater (tulips, not cables) of Classic Elite’s Provence – a cabled cotton that shows cables & other textures beautifully. It *is* heavy — but it’s a nice drapy heft. My sweater is on the cropped side — which would be one way to deal with the heaviness of cotton – either using it for shorter styles, or perhaps more nicely fitted styles, so there’s less “sweater” there to be heavy. I think I could have said that better, but I hope I made myself understood.

  14. Wow! Somehow I hadn’t really gotten the full impact of Halycon until your finished sweater shot. That’s gorgeous! And I can only imagine how flax & wool feels blended together. Most yummy, I bet.

    For Penny, who’s wondering about cotton cables, one of the most absolutely gorgeous sweaters I’ve ever seen was knit by Joan Schrouder, from Henry’s Attic “Alpine Petite,” which is 100% cotton. It was very heavily cabled (with Bavarian twisted stitches), and its hand was absolutely lovely. And it felt like it would a very, very comfy sweater to wear. So it is possible!

  15. Whoa! I had the same black/brown ensemble on my avatar (not posted on the web, just for funsies). Except I wore black pants.

    I also heart the Rowan Calmer for stitch definition. Plus, it’s good for warmer climes. We-uns down in here in Dixie can’t be sportin’ that heavy stuff all the time. About three days a year, max.

  16. U;m another gal in the South and Rowan Denim also does very well in cabled designs and has the plus of being fav in the washer and dryer. Of course, you have to like blue…

    I knit Kepler in Rowan Summer Tweed and that yarn also shows cables to great advantage. It is not elastic at all but I’ve never had a problem with it.

    All Seasons Cotton is also wonderful and lighter than the other two.

    That gives you three yarns at three gauges to work with.

  17. Hi Wendy — I had a suggestion for the rubenesque and slender aran pattern sleuths. This may be stating the obvious, but what a wonderful excuse to design something yourself! Find a pattern you like and scale the pieces up or down to the size you like. Then, experiment with adding or subtracting cable patterns for varying sweater widths. There are several books out with lovely aran pattern libraries. All of this requires swatching and experimenting, but some of us like that sort of thing…

  18. I suggest knitting cotton at a tighter gauge so the cables don’t sag as much.

    I love that sweater!

  19. I’m not exactly a lurker so much as a quiet regular. But since you have been talking about inappropriate yarns and Starmore designs, just thought I’d speak up about my grand experiment in knitting Irish Moss with Silky Wool: so far, so good. It’s certainly a different fabric, but the gauge equates, and the warm-blooded husband would like that sweater, just not so warm, thank you. I’ll let you know how I like the final product. It’s going to take me a wee bit longer that it took you (both times?) Wish me luck. Lucy is too cute, as ever.

  20. I’d second Yvonne’s suggestion to learn to design a well fitting sweater. A perfect opportunity awaits us all at Janet Szabo’s site, Look for the link to the “Follow the Leader Aran Knitalong” on the left side of the page. It’s just getting started so it’s not too late to join, and folks are having a grand time learning and knitting.

    For Penny in her quest for a cotton good for Aran knitting — Jaeger has a new dk coming out this spring called Roma, which is a cotton blend with a little lycra built in. I had the opportunity to swatch it before ordering it for the store, and it is simply marvelous! Great stitch definition and feels like you’re knitting with wool.

    Loki, the calico who just adopted us, has spied the pix of Lucy’s felted bed and is encouraging me to knit one for her.

  21. Beautiful new sweater Wendy!

    To the person who suggested alpaca as a wool substitute…be careful! I am not allergic to wool but am VERY allergic to alpaca! My palms start to itch and my chest gets really tight…so before you dive into alpaca expose yourself to a small amount (tuck a butterfly of yarn in your bra for a few hours!)and make sure you aren’t allegric to alpaca too.

    Tat being said, I second the All Season’s Cotton and Calmer vote! Both lovely to knit with and great stitch definition! The is even a gorgeous cabled swaeter in the Calmer Collection book.

  22. Gorgeous Wendy. Of course, I would expect nothing less!

  23. Just wanted to de-lurk long enough to tell you how gorgeous your sweater is! I’m just learning to cable, and that is an inspiration. And thanks for the advice on sewing with weak yarn. Can’t wait to see what’s next…

  24. I find alpaca just as itchy as wool, but I can tolerate Brown Sheep “Cotton Fleece,” which is 20% wool and 80% cotton (and if Penny can knit with wool, she’s probably not allergic to it, just doesn’t like the feel of it when worn). I knit an aran sweater for my son using Cotton Fleece (there’s a photo on my blog under “Finished!”); the stitch definition is great and the yarn is more resilient than pure cotton. If Penny can’t take any wool, I agree that Classic Elite’s “Provence” is lovely; Tahki’s “Cotton Classic” is also nice, and comes in a zillion colors.

  25. Penny — other fibers you might like are soy and bamboo. Soy is really strong stuff (according to CSI it’s the strongest natural fiber), so it would at least hold together for making cables. Both are probably more drape-y than what you had in mind, though. If you can tolerate some wool, I’ve found that Karaoke soy/wool is incredible stuff, and I can’t tolerate scratchy wools at all. That stuff is… fluffy and soft and drape-y. Good luck!

  26. The aran is awesome, Wendy!

    Penny, I’m doing an aran of my own design in Debbie Bliss Cathay (cotton, viscose, silk blend). It has great stitch definition and has a little bit of give. Dallas weather doesn’t require a lot of wool…..

  27. I am curious about how you decide when you will backstitch your seams versus use mattress stich to sew your seams. I noticed that you use each technique at different times.

  28. By the way, the sweater looks awesome as usual!

  29. I would like to comment to Penny: don’t give up looking! Not all wools are created the same. For the first 40 or so years of my life I too thought I could not wear wool whatsoever with the same symptoms, the worst being the cold sweats. I still can’t wear any alpaca or llama, but I’ve found some wools that work for me. Curiously, the rather coarse Philosophers Wool that drives my husband nuts, doesn’t itch me at all, and even more curious, the superwash wool from LornasLaces doesn’t itch me. All other superwash that I have met so far feels very nice to the touch, but drives havoc on my skin. So my point is to keep trying!!

  30. More suggestions for cotton yarn are GGH’s Samoa and Bali, Rowan’s All Season Cotton and Denim, Cascade’s Sierra and Cotton Fleece (if any wool can be tolerated) and Twilly’s (very like Rowan’s Denim). All are lovely in cables.

  31. AnotherLurker says:

    I am so pleased to hear that Rowan Calmer can be used in place of wool for those of us who are allergic. I have heard of the yarn but not yet seen it. I shall try that, in a very simple pattern, to make a gansey for my son.

  32. The sweater is lovely. Are you worried about how the sweater will wear if the yarn pulled apart so easily? Does it make a strong fabric?

    To Penny: I’m really allergic to wool too (and any animal hair, really – even 100% cashmere) and do find alpaca and alpaca and merino blends to be far more bearable, but still have to wear a shirt underneath, regardless of how soft the yarn. However,to make a sweater, especilly cabled, I don’t think I’d use 100% alapaca, it just seems too delicate.

    Re: the vm in yarns, I’ve noticed a lot in Noro as well. This isn’t a yarn that I’ve used, but I noticed a lot of straw on the balls at the LYS, and heard some complaints about it too. Does it seem like they have a lot in their yarn too? Does any of it seem to come out with washing? I think this would drive me nutty(er).

  33. A suggestion for Penny:

    You could try Elsebeth Lavold’s cotton yarns, Cotton Patine or, get this, Cable Cotton. I haven’t actually knit with them, but it’s worth a swatch.

    I have knit with Brown Sheep’s Cotton Fleece and would recommend it. The low wool content might be more toloerable to you and it has wonderful stitch definition.

  34. Halcyon looks just stunning! I only wish Lucy was a little more impressed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. Beautiful sweater!

  36. I am an obsessed knit blog reader, and have been for a while, but I usually just lurk (is it just me, or does that sound sinister? I promise, no harm is intended by my lurking or obsessing!) But I just have to jump in today with the generic type of comment you get all the time — that sweater looks fantastic! I love arans in theory, but generally don’t love how they actually look worn. However, you have changed my mind with this one – it looks wonderful. Also, thanks for your posts wherein you answer questions from your commenters. They are a wealth of information and multiple perspectives.

  37. beautiful Aran.Many thanks for your e-mail.My fear to give comments is a few lesser!!

  38. The color of that Aran is jsut great….very earthy and warm. Perfect for chilly winter days.

  39. I was so moved by your sweater. How beautiful! I have been tending toward lighter colors to show off the cables better. Do you find that dark colors work just as well? It obviously worked well with this sweater.

  40. Thanks for sharing the information!

  41. I think I’m gonna faint… you finished that already???? My heavens. I knew you could knit fast and I knew you did a whole Aran sweater in record time once, but you were racing! I’m so shocked. Impressed… but shocked none the less. Halcyon looks fabulous, really it does.

  42. Lee Grimes says:

    Hi Everyone: Great comments about cotton vs. wool. I have been afraid to try Cotton Fleece for an ARAN. Thanks very much for helping! I am on a quest to find a copy of AS’ Maidenhair Cardigan/Jacket pattern. I can’t afford a copy of ARAN knitting right now. Any other suggestions?

    Thanks so much Lee