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Inspiration Monday: Olson

For those of you knee-deep in holiday knitting angst, take heart … there’s great Selfish Sweater Knitting on the horizon. Just a few more weeks ’til the new year and your well-earned respite from gift making!julie-hoover-olson-600-2_small2

Anyone who hangs out to knit with me knows of my unabashed and unashamed love for Julie Hoover’s designs — always so classic and timeless, with that edge of interest that keeps you from feeling plain. She’s done quite a few great garments over the years for her own label, as well as collaborating with other companies now and again.

Olson is her latest, and of course it didn’t take five seconds for it to land in my pattern library: look at that drape! The easy, throw-it-on-over-anything shape … and that shoulder seam detail! I can’t even.

Knitters are in love with boxy, oversized sweaters right now, and it’s no wonder — they are the most forgiving of garments (handy at this time of year, when the sideboard groans with treats and celebrations fill every weekend with food-laden gatherings). No need to worry whether the cardigan will button over your food baby when it’s got such a broad, swingy profile through the hips.

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(When I get this knit up, I’ll have to spend more time leaning up against walls, thinking. It’s that kind of sweater.)

Julie’s sample, shown in the photos here, was worked up in a DK weight alpaca-silk blend, knitted quite open; so this is a great chance to explain the alchemy of yarn substitution. At first glance, you might look at the knitted gauge of 18 sts = 4″/10cm and assume she’d used a worsted-weight yarn (which usually has a gauge range of 18-20sts/4″). The soft swoop of the fabric in the photos tells a different story, however — this is clearly a drapier, more fluid fabric. For successful yarn substitution, it’s important to also look at the ‘ball-band gauge’ of the yarn used: in this case, it’s a DK (11wpi). (Nice of Ravelry to put that information right front and center on the pattern page!)

Fortunately for me, I had the chance to indulge in some instant gratification: my mighty Blue Moon stash offered up two great candidates for this drapey beauty! Interestingly enough, neither of them are blends — they are both single-fiber superheroes. Cake DK is a springy, sweet and plump merino beauty, and BFL Sport is a fuzzy, halo-y taste of the joys of Bluefaced Leicester.

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(‘Hang on, Karen,’ you say — ‘BFL Sport? I thought you said we needed DK!’) Technically, yes — the pattern calls for a 11 wpi yarn, but given the right fiber content and bounce and spring, you could work with a slightly finer yarn and get good results. I definitely felt like the BFL was swatchworthy. (You know, for science!)

And here are my happy swatches, after blocking and resting for a few days: Cake DK at top, in colorway “Spicy Plum,” and BFL Sport below in “Champlum.” (Total coincidence that I had these yarns in sympathetic colors to Julie’s pictured sample — inspiring, however!)

I wish I could have you all here next to me to feel these swatches — they are both so gloriously plump and fluffy, lightweight yet bouncy… they make me want to cast on right.this.second! The fiber subtleties come out when you have them next to each other like this: the Cake’s merino yields a smooth, soft fabric that just glides across your skin if you rub your face in it (oh, c’mon — you totally would!). I love the bounce and spin of the three plies, and the stitch picture is so tidy and happy! (I’m a sucker for a good merino. Tina knows this.)

The BFL Sport was a bit of a wild card, I’ll admit — I kinda swatched it on a self-made dare, because I have an SQ of it in Champlum and I would just loooove to have a sweater that color in my wardrobe. Could it work? Could it indeed! Despite the fact that it’s 12wpi (one more wrap per inch than the specified yarn weight), it’s holding up beautifully at the pattern gauge. It has a light, fluffy, slightly-fuzzy airiness to it that’s just enchanting. Not as regular and smooth as the merino, but slightly woolly in a way that still manages to be soft, soft, soft.

Interestingly enough, I needed to go up to a US8/5mm to get gauge for this pattern; but that’s not uncommon for me with Julie’s patterns (I suspect she’s a loose knitter, because she often calls for a needle size on her patterns that’s much smaller than what I end up using). Reason #6,432 to swatch, swatch, swatch! And because both of these yarns have quite a bit of bounce and snap-back, I’d recommend waiting a few days after your swatches have dried from their initial blocking to take a second, rested, measurement. Yarns bounce back! (And you wouldn’t want a sweater  you’d knitted to come out too small or too short after its first washing, would you?)

So lucky me — I’ll have my SQ of BFL Sport waiting under the tree for me on December 25, ready for a me-gifted cast-on party! What about you? What colorway will you choose for your cozy-over-pyjamas-or-your-party-dress Olson? 1320–1745 yards is what you’ll need, which translates into 2 or 3 skeins of either scrumptious yarn: a veritable bargain, considering either is just $35 per generous skein!

Happy sweater dreams, y’all. Hope all your holiday wishes will come true in the next few weeks!

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