Rugged Knits Pattern Highlight: Woolen Explorer
This week's Rugged Knits Pattern Highlight is one of my favorites in the collection - Woolen Explorer. This is a hard-wearing, super functional cardigan (with giant pockets!) inspired by the Icelandic Lopapeysa tradition. I even knit my sample out of Icelandic wool -Istex Lettlopi. It's a really special yarn from one of the world's heritage sheep breeds. The Icelandic sheep grazing today are almost unchanged from those that have been there for 1100 years. (This article from Modern Farmer has some lovely descriptions of Icelandic wool.) This sweater was one of the most troublesome to design (I re-worked the colorwork, collar, button band, and all sorts of elements many times before I was satisfied), but I'm in love with the result. Here in the PNW, this is almost more coat that sweater, and I'm really looking forward to knitting up one for myself.
- Worked seamlessly, bottom-up, this sweater includes steek stitches and the front is cut open to create the cardigan.
- Pocket linings are worked first and then incorporated into the body as the body is worked. The linings are then sewn down on the inside of the jacket during finishing. Ribbed pocket edgings are picked up and added after sewing the linings.
- Body and sleeves are worked separately, then joined to work the yoke.
- The collar is worked to double its length, then, after reinforcing and cutting the steek, it's folded down and whipstitched to the inside.
- Button band and buttonhole band are picked up and worked last.
- This sweater is really versatile in fit. The sample is shown worn with a very oversized fit, like a big coat, and I had in fact expected the sample to be photographed on the male model. I was surprised to see it photographed on one of the women, but it looks so perfect on her! I wouldn't have thought to try it that way, and that kind of unexpected styling is why I love collaborating.
- I have two different recommended ease categories for this one: For the oversized fit shown on the model, knit one that's 9−13 in/23−33 cm larger than the wearer's chest circumference. For a more standard relaxed fit, make yours 2−4 in/5−10 cm larger than the wearer's chest circumference. And as I say that, I actually think I'm going to go somewhere in between when I knit one for myself and make the 37.75 in/96 cm size, which will be about 6.75 in of ease on me.
- There are instructions for two different sleeve length options, one designed for standard women's sleeve lengths and one for men's/tall (or just long-armed) sleeve lengths. Check out the schematic to see which one is right for you.
- The fit is intended to be somewhat boxy, so waist shaping isn't included in the instructions. But the body is worked all in Stockinette stitch, so if you know you prefer some shaping, it wouldn't be difficult to add a few decreases and increases.
I mentioned above that Istex Lettlopi is a special yarn. It's got some really interesting characteristics that make it great for working up a rugged, long-lasting coat. It's surprisingly light but very warm. If you're used to very soft yarns, you'll probably find it to be rough because the softer undercoat fibers are spun together with coarser fibers, but it softens up with wearing and washing, and it's intended as outerwear, so you can always add a barrier layer if it seems to prickly to wear right next to your skin. If you haven't ever tried it, it's really affordable - I really recommend getting your hands on a skein and swatching with it to see what you think.
TIPS FOR SUBSTITUTING
- Since Lettlopi is such a unique yarn, any substitution will result in a really different fabric, but as long as you know what you're looking for, there are lots of possibilities.
- It's worsted weight and worked at 18 sts = 4 in/10 cm. There are a lot of yarns that would work really well at that gauge.
- I recommend picking something that's a bit sticky to help keep everything in place when you cut your steek. Superwash yarn is probably not ideal because it's slippery and tends to grow vertically with wear. (Having said that, though, a whole lot of knitters have made my Knitter's Dude with The Plucky Knitter Scholar, a superwash MCN, and have been happy with their finished sweaters. The Knitter's Dude is a tighter gauge sweater with more colorwork in the body, so make sure you know what you're getting into if you decide to go this route.)
- If you're a fan of Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, that could be a great option. It's light and woolly and works great for steeking.
- For something incredibly cozy, I'd love to see this in Malabrigo Merino Worsted. It pills like crazy, but the colors are gorgeous and it's the cuddliest yarn I've ever worked with.
- Another yarn I love is Cestari Traditional 2-Ply. I think it would give you an equally long-lasting, rustic sweater, but it's quite a bit softer. Avoid the marled colors if you want crisp, clear colorwork though.
MY FAVORITE DETAIL
That yoke! My husband Sean designed the colorwork and I'm so pleased with how it came out. I also love the sharply contrasting cuffs, hem, and bands. They're not traditional, but I appreciate how they frame everything.
A lot of knitters work more tightly in stranded colorwork than in Stockinette, so be sure you're using a larger needle for the colorwork section if you need to to maintain gauge.
33.75 (37.75, 41.25, 45.25, 49.25, 53, 57)” (85.5
96, 105, 115, 125, 134.5, 145 cm) bust/chest circumference with 1” (2.5 cm) overlap and 26 (26.75, 27.25, 28.5, 29.25, 29.75, 30.5)” (66 68, 69, 72.5, 74.5, 75.5, 77.5 cm) long.
Intended to be worn with “2−4” (5−10 cm) of positive ease for standard fit or 9−13 in (23−33) cm for oversized fit. Shown with oversized fit.
Shown in size 45.25” (115 cm).
Worsted weight (#4 medium).
Main Color (MC): 811 (907, 993, 1089, 1185, 1270, 1366) yd (741 829, 908, 996, 1083, 1161, 1249 m).
Contrast Color 1 (CC1): 280 (313, 343, 376, 409, 439, 472) yd (256 286, 313, 344, 374, 401, 431 m).
Contrast Color 2 (CC2): 93 (104, 114, 125, 136, 146, 157) yd (85 95, 104, 114, 124, 133, 143 m).
Shown here: Ístex Lettlopi (100% wool; 109 yd 100 m/50 g skein): colors #0086 Light Beige Heather (MC), 8 (9, 10, 10, 11, 12, 13) skeins; #0005 Black Heather (CC1), 3 (3, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5) skeins; #0054 Light Ash Heather (CC2), 1 (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) skein(s).
Size U.S. 6 (4 mm): 16” and 32” (40 and 80 cm) long circular (cir) and set of 4 or 5 double- pointed (dpn).
Size U.S. 8 (5 mm): 24” and 32” (60 and80 cm) long circular (cir) and set of 4 or 5 double- pointed (dpn).
Adjust needle sizes if necessary to obtain the correct gauges.
Stitch markers (m); stitch holders; waste yarn; size C-2 (2.75 mm) crochet hook; tapestry needle; ten 9/16” (14 mm) buttons.
18 sts and 26 rows = 4” (10 cm) over St st using smaller needles.
18 sts and 24 rows = 4” (10 cm) over Color Patt using larger needles.