Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


#makenine2021 Pine green seventies sweater: the finished look

The makenine challenge each year always feels like an almighty hill to climb. Perhaps I am too ambitious for myself, but including a knitting project in the nine, when I am such a novice, always makes the challenge hard.

The project I chose was a sweater using a vintage pattern. I hadn’t knitted a full sweater before, nor followed a vintage pattern: this really was a learning curve. Not to mention that this is only the second project where I had picked up stitches on a neckline, or used mattress stitch to seam. I laugh in the face of my ambitions! This said, it was no surprise that the process was slow, and I needed to consult youtube frequently to check on the techniques that I either didn’t know, or needed reminding about.

Sirdar knitting pattern from the seventies

Yarn choice

The only familiar aspect of the project was that I chose to use Lett Lopi yarn. I used the same yarn here and was so pleased with the result I wanted to used the same wool again. The yarn is extremely warm, perhaps because it comes from Icelandic sheep.

I had a conversation with my next-door neighbour recently where we talked about working from home and he shared with me his delight in a quilted gilet and fingerless gloves. This sweater is my equivalent and will help ward off the creeping cold that seems to penetrate your bones when you need to sit still for hours in a cold Victorian house.

One thing to note for those that have never used Lett lopi before; it has the very unusual property of being made of only one strand. Plyed yarns are stronger than a single strand of the same thickness so you do need to be careful when pulling on the yarn. I am quite a loose knitter so never have problems with this, but trying to seam my sweater together I did pull the yarn apart a few times.


My experience with my first vintage knitting pattern was better than I expected. I was nervous about diving into this project simply because I couldn’t tell what quantity of wool was needed, but after those initial doubts, following the instructions was simple enough and I used youtube to fill my knowledge gaps when I came across techniques or stitches I didn’t know. I learned a lot about different types of decrease and picking up stitches with this project. I was extremely pleased that I incorporate a beautiful alternating cable cast-on too.

Pine-green sweater styled: stood out in the wind and the rain just long enough for this photo!


My sweater is very warm; I would go as far as saying that I will probably only wear it inside at home or when it is very cold outside. My only regret is that it is quite tight-fitting and before you ask my gauge was spot on and I picked the correct size. According to the pattern, it is to be worn with no ease. I really should have read that, but somehow I didn’t. I think it fits with the seventies aesthetic, but I’m not convinced it looks marvellous on me with my lack of waist definition. I have been going through my wardrobe and experimenting with different looks. Here are my thoughts:

Three looks with the pine-green sweater

Look 1: Brushed cotton checked shirt (Lekala) with RTW low-rise jeans

The low-rise of these jeans meant that there was a definite gap between the bottom of the sweater and the trousers, so I wondered whether the untucked shirt would work. I’m not sure. I like the brushed cotton under the sweater though.

Look 2: Brushed cotton shirt with flared high-rise jeans

The colour of the shirt is probably not a great choice, but I wanted to see if this style fitted well under the sweater and it did. The high-rise jeans cover the gap between the sweater finishing and the jeans waistband.

Look 3: Floral liberty shirt with RTW Black velvet skirt

This was a surprise combination: I have never worn this shirt and skirt together and the sweater brings the whole look together. I like this! I have often seen dresses worn with cropped jumpers and this emulates that look as the skirt sits quite high on the waist.


#makenine2021 Pine green seventies sweater progress 1

I took the plunge last month and bought yarn for a new knitting project. I chose a very simple, plain knitting pattern for the project. However, the pattern is vintage and I had been worried that this would cause all sorts of complications.

Last month my problem was how much yarn to order, but using other patterns on Ravelry as a guide, I guessed the total amount I would need and ordered the wool. This month I’ve actually been making progress on the knitting. Have there been any more challenges?

Surprisingly, so far it has been a reasonably smooth process. The pattern is reasonably straight-forward, although just like a seventies sewing pattern it does assume a reasonable amount of knowledge. For example, when it suggests a decrease, it doesn’t tell you what sort of decrease to make. However, because there was no hand-holding, I have been forced to take to Youtube and learn. Actually, I always prefer this way of learning, the type of learning that relies on discovery. I’ve always found that the most rewarding type of learning. It means that you will always end up reading/watching more than you really need. However, I think this means that you acquire more understanding as a result, compared to a situation where you are just “told” what to do. I can certainly see with this make that my arm-hole edges are much more elegant and all my decreases are slanting correctly. Plus, because this is such a plain sweater, if I like the shape I could easily make another with stripes or other colour-work. (Clearly my dreams of being a proficient knitter well exceed reality)

The other thing I have noticed is the pattern is full of details that add finesse to the overall finished knit. For example, s1 stitches are used at particular points as the first stitch in a row. Essentially s1 is where you just slip the stitch, without knitting or purling to the working needle. The reason this is great is that it can tighten up the edges and give a better finish.

The Toasty Sweater I created last year was a very off-putting experience and mostly because the maths wasn’t correct. An example, the pattern would say decrease 5 stitches for 2 rows (so 10 stitches in total would lost overall), but then the total number of stitches left at the end of the decrease would be incorrect. It was very frustrating and I ended up re-writing sections of the pattern. This jumper, so far, has been prefect. Every decrease I have done has resulted in the right number of stitches for the row. For a beginner it is so important that these things are correct, otherwise you begin to doubt your own (limited) skills.

The back piece took quite a while to knit and it wasn’t the most interesting thing to do once the colour changes on the ribbing were completed. I only used 2.5 balls of wool, so I will have plenty to finish the project, which is reassuring. The front piece is very similar to the back piece so I know that the maths will be correct for that too. Reassuring again! I finally feel I am well on the way to a warm jumper!


#makenine2021 A vintage knitting project and what colour is frostbite?

I was looking at my Make Nine choices. There comes a point in every plan where the initial enthusiasm wears off and it becomes harder to realise all the garments I have chosen. Generally, I think this point comes when I reach the more challenging items. One of the most difficult items in my plan is, without doubt, the knitted jumper. It is probably no coincidence that it is also the most needed item too.

The last year I have worked mostly form home. Home is hard to heat. Although that isn’t a problem at the weekend when moving around keeps me warm, but on work days when I’m sitting still and chained to the desk I can quickly feel cold.

Finding a pattern that I wanted to knit proved to be a difficult step. Essentially I have two specifications – that the sweater shouldn’t be too fancy so that it gets maximum wear and also that the pattern uses only techniques I have used before (or at least not too many new ones).

Extensive browsing on Ravelry came up with limited possibilities. There are so many beautiful patterns with colourwork or cables that I itch to do. However, I’m determined to have a warm jumper in my wardrobe by winter so I need to rein in my ambitions until I have a bit more knitting experience under my belt.

Of course, I could just choose a jumper for it’s shape and leave out any cables or colourwork, but that requires modifying the pattern. With my previous make, a striped tank top, I re-wrote the whole pattern adding in the stripes, but also correcting mistakes I found in the maths. I didn’t want a repeat of that experience, it was pretty soul-destroying for a beginner.

Fortunately, I found this fantastic vintage pattern in a charity shop. I picked up quite a few of these 70s patterns, but this was the plainest one. In fact, I’m now thinking it looks a bit like a school jumper. (Thank goodness I didn’t consider making this in grey otherwise it would definitely look like school uniform! Although perhaps it looks a bit like a Slitherin house, Hogwarts school jumper because it is green.) I think it fufils my criteria well; plain enough to wear with most of my wardrobe and using all the techniques I’ve used before – increasing, decreasing, ribbing, picking up stitches.

Sirdar 5525 – a plain classic jumper. I like the styling here too on the cover – brown and cream with the “dog-ear collar” blouse.

Features of my vintage pattern:

  • Ribbed finishes on the hem, neckline and cuff including two bands of a second colour.
  • Worked flat and then seamed
  • Round neckline, perfect for wearing shirts underneath

My next obstacle was buying the wool. Sadly the pattern didn’t help much with this – “7 balls “of a long departed product wasn’t going to provide me with any guidance on the quantity I needed. Fortunately, this is where Ravelry is helpful. I found a similar style of jumper in a similar size and made a guess. I decided that to be on the safe side I would order 1000 m of yarn, and buy a few extra balls in different colours. That way I could decide which second colour to use when the wool arrived and (ambitiously) I thought I could even make something else with all the left-overs. I still have a little of the two blues from the tank top.

I decided to use Lett lopi yarn again. I enjoyed using it before and it comes in a great range of colours. Also, it isn’t too expensive. I picked 1407 – pine green heather for the main colour and also ordered 0005 – black heather, 1417 – frostbite, and 9421 – celery green heather as possible contenders for the second colour.

When the yarn arrived I decided to choose the palest green (1417 – frostbite) as a contrast to my pine green. Is frostbite ever that green, I thought frost-bitten toes tend to be black – not a pleasant thought? Or perhaps it isn’t really about toes, but more like frost on a leaf? Anyway, I made a swatch and picked my needle sizes based on that.

I suspect this project is going to take a long time, so I’ve decided that I’m going to knit it in stages, starting with the back piece first. I’ll then go back to some sewing before I attempt the front.

Does anyone else have experience with vintage knitting patterns? My biggest obstacle, so far, has been picking the yarn. But I’m still quite an inexperienced knitter and I’m bound to come across more problems. Are there any other drawbacks? On the plus side I’ve found that patterns of this vintage are often knitted flat, as opposed to in the round. At the moment I’m finding that this is my preferred method, but perhaps I’m just recalling the horror that was this cabled hat when I think about knitting in the round.


#MakeNine2019 – Knitting Project: More photos of the Toasty Slipover

Now that the weather has calmed down a bit, I have managed to get outside for photo-taking. I particularly wanted to take photos of the ensemble I’m wearing today. Firstly, I wanted to show my latest knitting project modelled, rather than photographed flat and secondly, I wanted to show how I envisage wearing it.

The shirt in the pictures below, is made from white linen crepe. It’s a beautiful fabric, but I have scarcely worn it. It’s a very versatile shirt, I could pretty much wear it with anything. But I have just been too scared to wear it, lest I spill some horrendously staining food item down it. It has stayed in the wardrobe since it was made, which is rather sad. I’ve now found that this shirt is absolutely perfect with my new sweater. I’m hiding most of the white and in particular the spill-prone just-below-chin areas!

Worn in the photos:

Toasty Sweater modelled with my white linen shirt

Toasty Sweater modelled with my white linen shirt

The whole outfit is a bit of a departure from my usual style, so I think some more road-testing for both the shirt and the jumper are required in combination with other items from my wardorbe. I think that perhaps this wide-legged beige pair of trousers will also work with these two items. I also have a blue denim shirt in my wardrobe that I think might also work with the jumper. The denim shirt is an old (could probably be called vintage) item that hangs around in the wardrobe, and again hasn’t been worn much.


I’m trying to think if I have a skirt that would also work with the shirt and jumper, but I’m not convinced there is. Perhaps that could be a possible future make.

Toasty slipover

I was convinced there was an end that I hadn’t woven in somewhere under my arm, but couldn’t find it….hence the pose……


#MakeNine2019 – Knitting Project: The Toasty Slipover

You read that right – this is one of my Make Nine 2019 makes, not 2020 makes, but I am exceptionally proud that I have now finished this, even though I didn’t cross the finishing line before the end of the year. I class myself as a beginner knitter and this is my first jumper, so it’s a major achievement!

I’ll start with the positive things: Some of the wool was from a charity shop. I spotted three and a half balls of dark drown 100% wool yarn and snapped it up. Of course, I realised that I would need some other wool to supplement this find, but at least this meant that my first jumper wouldn’t be so expensive to make. It would have been so much harder to commit to making a jumper if I’d bought all the wool as new. Plus, I like the fact that I have successfully recycled some wool. The two shades of blue wool are Lettlopi Icelandic wool.

I’ve learned a huge amount during this project. I’ve learned a serious number of new techniques – how to seam knits, how to knit neck and armhole bands and how to work decreases for necklines and armholes. This will stand me in good stead for future projects.

Toasty Slipover (Rowan)

It’s finished – yay!

But, I have to go into some detail about all the difficulties I had. Most of the problems were unintentional consequences of decisions I made. Let me say this again, I’m a beginner at knitting, and at some point you just have to put in the necessary experiences good and bad to improve your skills. I was prepared for that, however, I got far more than I bargained for with this pattern.

The problems started with my selection of project. I wanted to do a simple project, but also a pattern that didn’t require huge amounts of knitting (for a jumper). I thought about making a long-sleeved jumper, but then I decided (stupidly), hey, why not do a sleeveless jumper, that will be less knitting? So I settled on “The Toasty Slipover” by Rowan. It looks simple. I thought I could cope with adding the stripes of colour too. I even thought I might enjoy learning a couple of extra things like knitting the neckline……

Toasty Slipover (Rowan)

The back was a doddle to do, but then I hit some real problems on the front. The maths on the pattern was out. Surely it’s me I told myself. I’m a mere beginner. But I checked the reviews on Ravelry and sure enough someone else had encountered some problems, although sadly they didn’t point out the bit that was wrong.

I persevered. I re-wrote the whole of the front pattern again. I think I need a medal for that alone. I completed the front, seamed the jumper and let it sit in a bag for a couple of months. I was savouring the victory thus far, plus I’d run out of wool. After a visit to Wool Bath, I started on the neckline. I watched every Youtube video I could find on v-necks and double-decreases for a mitred neckline and managed to make a good job of the neckline. Really proud how neat that looks. And finally I added the armhole cuffs. Here there was another error in the pattern. Yes, I have enough confidence to say that now! There should have been a complete number of pattern repeats (K2P2) but there weren’t. That was easy to rectify.

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I learned loads knitting this. I expected to learn how to do that v-neckline. I wasn’t expecting to re-do the pattern instructions! Anyway, I’ve written it all out in full, should anyone else want to use this pattern complete with a row-by-row for the stripes.

The weather has been stormy with frequent deluges, so outdoor modelling of the jumper is out for the moment. I’ll post some photos later, in the mean time, enjoy the beauty of that mitred v-neck!

Toasty Slipover (Rowan)

V-neck magic!

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A Woolly Creation

At the weekend, I was very pleased to get a look at the first showing of Briswool. Briswool is a project to knit, crochet and needle-felt, the city of Bristol including the iconic buildings of the city and other landmarks. More than 100 people across the city have been involved in some way.


Paper Village, the art and craft shop was entirely taken over by the growing woolly landscape. There was the famous Clifton suspension bridge, and the Matthew, the ship that took John Cabot to Newfoundland. The cathedral sat alongside the river and a mass of crocheted hot-air balloons were suspended around Concorde. I was particularly enthralled by the needle-felt penguins in the zoo and the crafty fox making an appearance out of the crochet bushes on Brandon Hill.

Regretfully, I am not a knitter, but I would dearly like to take part and make a small part of this magical woolly creation. The project isn’t finished yet, so I’ve still got a chance.