A few months ago I collected some craft books that I'd inherited from my grandmother, Denise. One of them was this beauty from 1990, Jenny Kee's Knits from Nature.
I'd been wanting to make a garment for my four-year-old niece and here was the inspiration!
Yes, a little bit ambitious.
I've done little bits of colourwork before but never a whole garment like this. The patterns in the book are all oversized adult jumpers and cardigans (plus the odd poncho, skirt or legwarmers). I hatched a plan to use some of the motifs from the pattern 'Pax Joy', but apply them to a plain child's jumper.
It turned out that I had all the colours I needed in my magical stash of Bendigo Woollen Mills four-ply cotton. All except black: why don't they make black? I used a mercerised cotton which wasn't a great match but in small amounts that didn't matter. I thought that stranded four-ply would probably make a jumper of a practical, wearable weight for a little kid, one that might go across seasons. Many little kids don't spend a lot of time wearing really warm jumpers.
For the pattern I used a basic raglan recipe, and I messed it up a bit by not planning ahead properly: don't look too closely at those increases as I had to squeeze them in a bit faster than is ideal. I had dreaded this first part, where I would need to maintain the pattern while increasing. I normally don't mind if I have to rip and re-knit but really didn't want to do that in this case.
Once I got to the right stitch count for the body and it was just knitting straight in the round it got easier but it was still slow going. Unlike most of my knitting projects - even blankets - this one didn't travel anywhere with me for casual knitting opportunities. I really had to schedule lots of home time to sit down and get this done. (Thank you, pandemic)
From the small swatch I made first, I knew that any motifs with three colours to a row would be much slower going and also wouldn't look as neat. There were only a couple of three-colour ones in the chart, and I modified one of them. Those pink circles on a teal background were meant to be yin-yang symbols, but I thought big polka-dots would look just as good. But the other - the butterflies - well, I could have left them out but I decided it would be worth the pain to do them.
And they were a pain. Juggling three yarns while avoiding long floats and keeping even tension is harder. It seemed those particular rounds would never end. Once I eventually passed that point on the body it started to seem possible I might one day finish this garment.
When I got to the first sleeve, it was quicker - only two butterflies, how hard can that be? Well. Mistakes were made.
Because it is annoying to juggle three balls of yarn (and Bendigo balls are really large too) I grabbed some bobbins from a previous project, which happened to have some four-ply cotton already wound on them. When I had finished those butterflies, I stopped and actually looked at the garment. I had used a different, brighter yellow! (A better yellow, really, but not available any more.) I briefly thought about leaving those bright butterflies on just one sleeve as a special feature... but it really didn't work. So those rows had to be ripped back and reknit.
Unfortunately, finishing up the first sleeve, it became apparent that the butterfly section, the only one with three colours, was pulling in a bit narrower than the rest of the sleeve. It wasn't til I had finished the second sleeve and started the long process of weaving in ends....
So. Many. Ends
...that I had to admit that first sleeve needed fixing. Mum pointed out how terrible it would be if my niece couldn't bend her arm comfortably!
I managed to avoid ripping and reknitting most of the sleeve - just carefully cut a stitch, unravelled a row, and removed the butterfly section. Then reknit it with better tension. Then grafted the rest of the sleeve back on.
Finally, a bit of ribbing and it was done. Well, quite a bit of ribbing: I did the whole neckline twice to try to fix an issue with floppy ribbing at the back. And even after I thought I was finished, I went back and added more length to the body, as this girl seems to be taller every week.
So finally, finally, I packaged it up and sent it to my niece, and then just waited on the edge of my seat to hear if (a) it fit well and (b) she liked it. Great news! It did, and she does! I think her little voice on the phone saying "this jumper is so pretty!" in the middle of my work day was absolutely the highlight of my year.