Strap in because this may be my first finished make of 2021, but it started in 2019, and it’s a whopper.
I learned to loom knit a few years ago because I was really only interested in making socks, and I have zero desire whatsoever to learn “regular” needle knitting (I am beyond bored of people telling me I should – I don’t care – there’s the door!) so to discover there was an old-fashioned method to do so got me excited and I made a LOT of socks over the years. I also made a few hats, and a cowl, and a pair of weird mittens, but then the worm of an idea grew in my head – “You should make a sweater.”
Now, around this time (Sept 2019) the only loom knit sweater patterns for adults that I could find were for cardigans or slouchy boleros, but I wanted a proper pullover (since then, a few have emerged, and this one from Good Knit Kisses looks so good it might be my next one!).
So, undeterred, I figured I could draft one myself using my sewing knowledge since it was just a series of rectangles, essentially. I bought myself the massive Kb Afghan Loom, and some chunky yarn, and started swatching. I used a random Burda magazine sewing pattern as a guide for measurements, then found a swatch calculator online and used that to work out how many rows and pegs I’d need to make those measurements, and I drew myself a schematic:
I asked a knitting friend how many balls I’d need for a sweater, and let’s just say that was a woeful underestimate, because I think in total I used 14-16 balls?! I kept 14 labels, so I know it was at least that many, but I think I might’ve thrown some away. Anyway, in loom knitting it’s even easier to knit in the round as it is flat panels, so I planned to knit in the round wherever I had a loom with a close enough amount of pegs, like the sleeves and cowl neck, but I’d have to knit the body as one flat panel (since my Afghan loom had too many pegs for me to knit circularly), leaving a slit for one armhole, then sew up the other side and shoulders afterwards.
I also wanted to not make things overly complicated for myself, so I planned to only do this as 2×2 rib knit for the edges, with seed stitch (1k 1p, then 1p 1k) for the main body and sleeves. This turned out FAR easier on the sleeves as the pegs on my Adjustable Hat Loom (now no longer available but replaced by the far more customisable Adjustable Multi-Knit Loom) are alternately coloured white and grey so I knew I’d need to knit one row where the white pegs were the knit ones, then the next row the grey ones were the knit ones (I use a counting app on my phone to know whether I’m on a “white row” or a “grey row”). It was more difficult to keep track on the afghan loom since the pegs are all white, and my efforts to mark off every 10th peg with a Sharpie were only marginally successful (I also used a piece of washi tape to tell me which direction I was going in case I had to stop mid-row). I have a few mistakes in the body of the sweater, but if you need to know anything about whether I “am a knitter” or not – I would rather walk over hot coals than unpick (“tink”) more than about 5 stitches. I do not unpick. I move forward with my life!
And life rolled on! I started knitting this sweater in October 2019.
By December, the sweater was growing, but omg, these rows were 154 stitches long so it was really slow going. Also, the loom was huge so it was nowhere near as convenient to slip into a bag as my smaller sock looms! But I was stuck home with flu so I got quite a bit of progress done while I suffered through that.
Then in February I had to fly to the States last minute to sit with my Dad in a hospital room while he was critically ill. So I got a LOT of progress done during the transatlantic and hopper flights, then while literally sitting in a hospital room for a whole week. If I recall, I completed up to the armpits, celebrated with a lifeline, and then only stopped when I ran out of yarn (that I’d brought along)!
I did a lot of knitting back at home, working on it little by little, but I also would bring it along on car trips – this photo was taken in March, during our last trip before the March lockdown visiting friends in Cornwall literally the last weekend before our world changed.
Suddenly, the knitting that got me through my Dad’s illness now got me through the first stages of the pandemic. Stress-knitting is real, and it allowed me to power through and finish the body of the sweater in April, when I couldn’t resist pinning the side and shoulders together to test whether it actually fit after so many months. And it did!! Hurrah!
I then needed to learn how to block it, as I’d never bothered with my socks or hats, so my yoga mat and T-pins came into their own while I made it all nicely rectangular again.
It was while I started the first sleeve in May that I realised that I would not be able to have the entirely blue sweater I’d imagined. The yarn I’d used (Paintbox Wool Mix Chunky, a 50/50 wool/acrylic mix) is only sold by one company, LoveCrafts.com, and it appeared that they were discontinuing the line altogether. I’d already bought up the the entirety of my blue colourway they had in stock a few months earlier, and it hadn’t been restocked since then. With the rest of the colour choices dwindling fast, I had to make the decision as to which of the remaining colours would work best with the dolphin blue, and I chose the peach.
Thankfully, the narrower hat loom meant that not only did the rows go faster than the body of the sweater, but it also meant I could knit in the round again! I vastly prefer working clockwise (right to left) and knitting flat means that half of my rows feel really awkward as I have to hold the yarn in my left hand but on the right side so I can still knit with my right hand. I got better as I went along, but it still slowed me down!
I took a bit of a break from the knitting over the summer, both for the heat and for grieving over my Dad (who passed away in June), but I completed the first sleeve in September.
Now I could see the end in sight which, along with the cooling temperatures, gave me a renewed vigour to crack on with the second sleeve, which I finished in a rather speedy two months (November 2020).
At this point I really needed to stop running away from seaming the body together, which I’d put off for months because I was scared of it! It seems silly now, but it was something I was intimidated by because I’d never done it before. Thank god for YouTube, since I was able to find three different methods for mattress-stitching seed stitched knitting, and it turned out to be way easier than I had anticipated.
I also had a minor panic because, despite my being 120% certain that the sleeves had the same number of rows, they ended up having about two inches difference in length (I’m guessing I had tighter tension in the summer?). After dismissing knitters’ advice of “just unpick a few rows” HAHAHAHAH WITHOUT A LIFELINE, ARE YOU CRAZY?? (see also: I am not a knitter, as above), I took a different friend’s advice to block them to be the same size, which worked wonders and also straightened out the twist that just naturally happens when loom knitting a tube.
Now we were REALLY on the home stretch! With the side and shoulders seamed together, I could now put the loops of the neckline back onto a loom (my hat loom again, in the smallest configuration) and knit the collar in the round. I ended up only having 78 neckline loops vs 80 pegs, but the wonder of loom knitting is that I could just magic myself two extras really easily. I wanted the collar to be cosy and folded over at the top, so I made it an even longer 2×2 rib knit than the bottom hem of the sweater.
Another new-to-me thing I learned was a super stretchy cast-off method, as I’d been unhappy with my previous method feeling a bit too tight on my cycling commuter neck cowl. But this one is a) really very stretchy b) easy to do, and c) only requires a yarn needle (I really hate crochet hooks and don’t own any knitting needles so this eliminates quite a few methods). I’ll totally use it again!
With the collar done, it was just the sleeves left to sew on, which took an afternoon, and then that evening I sewed in all the yarn tails and finally removed all my lifelines to complete my sweater!!
And I could finally wear it! (omg it’s so heavy!)
Sorry not sorry for the amount of photos – I mean, it’s not every day I finish a sweater AND it’s sunny, too?!?
The sleeves are a tad too long, but I can scrunch them up a bit if they get in my way…
My schematic sat in the bottom of my project bag for 15 months, and I like how battered and bruised it had become!
I’m under no illusions that this is a Beginner Sweater. That’s okay – after all, I am a beginner sweater knitter. I don’t care that there are imperfections, or that the sleeves are a tad too long in the end. What I do care about is that I set myself a goal and stuck with it long, long after I might’ve gotten bored in the past. I learned a ton of new techniques, and asked for help from others when I needed it. This sweater channelled so much stress, anxiety and worry away from my mind and into the yarn that it damned near saved my sanity. And even though it’s a heavy, dense BEAST of a sweater in colours that aren’t really “me”, I love it and I thank it for everything it’s done for me. This sweater was what I needed to survive 2020.