The elusive chunky Walpole, with glamour shots and mod details

walpole chunky knitted cardigan how to

Hard to believe I started this simple little cardigan all the way back in mid-August. Thanks to my impatience with knitting flat, as this one begins, it mostly sat patiently in the corner for months on end. That is, until I decided to knit the sleeves in order to feel like I was getting somewhere, after which it came together like lightning. Apart from that one little setback, of course. But I’m kicking myself for letting it sit so long — while I impetuously cast on (and frogged) how many other sweaters? — because it’s a real wardrobe workhorse.

As you know if you were subjected to the play-by-play, I loved this pattern — Walpole, by Hannah Fettig for Brooklyn Tweed — from the moment it hit the interwebs. It’s simple and timeless but with really nice details, like the twisted stitch at the edge of any field of stockinette, and the I-cord selvage (which I’ll be applying to everything from now on). But it’s designed for fingering weight yarn, and that was just never going to happen. Then I ran into this fabulous, chunky, light-charcoal tweed at Stitches Midwest, decided instantly that I’d rework Walpole at a chunky gauge, and with a little help from Barry Klein, I cast on a few hours later. I’d never heard of the yarn before, but it’s a merino/cashmere/silk blend, wonderfully light and soft after blocking, and I like that the tweed bits are both black and blue, which makes it super versatile. This cardigan basically goes over of everything in my closet. (Which, you may have noticed, mainly consists of chambray and denim shirts in every proportion. But still!) And it only took about 700 yards of yarn. For anyone interested in the modifications I made, they follow this glamour shot —

walpole chunky knitted cardigan front


— Yarn is Queensland Kathmandu Chunky in Charcoal; used exactly 5 balls (710 yards).

— Knit on US10.5 (6.5mm) needles at a gauge of 3.5 stitches and 5 rows per inch in stockinette.

— Aiming for roughly the second size in the pattern, I cast on 142 stitches (36|70|36). I left the twisted rib sections at 2×2 but reduced the number of stitches in the stockinette band along the front to 5 stitches (plus the 3 edge stitches).

— I shortened the length — the better to work as a layering piece and to keep it from being engulfing at this weight. So I made the body 12.5 inches long before joining the sleeves. With my final yoke depth and after blocking, it wound up a little longer than I intended, but I’m still happy with it.

— I did three rounds of waist decreases but sort of wish I hadn’t done any.

— I also changed the shape of the sleeve. I cast on 32 stitches, knit in pattern for 3 inches, then on the next round did a kfb in every fourth stitch (40 sts). Did 4 additional pairs of increases up the sleeve, for 48 stitches at the join. Set aside 4 for the underarms; should probably have been a few more. If I were doing this again, I might also cast on just 28 stitches.

— I knit straight for 1 inch after joining the body and sleeves, then began the yoke decreases. To get the counts the way I wanted when all the decreases were done, I decreased the fronts, sleeves and back at very slightly different rates. Did a total of 40 rows (8 inches, 20 decrease rows) in the decrease section of the yoke. (I’ll put a pic of my chart on Ravelry in case anyone finds it useful or wants to tell me what they would have done differently. Feedback welcome!)

— Because I left the back of the neck wider than the pattern (to accommodate my shoulders), I had to knit each neck extension to 7.5 inches (!) before joining at the back.

— I don’t have any idea how to mattress stitch a bound-off edge to a selvage, so I sort of whipstitched the collar and neck together. Which wound up creating a slight ridge that I’m telling myself mimics the row of twisted stitches it disappears into at each end of the seam.

For the record, I’m about 5’8″, size 6/8 with broad shoulders. Feel free to borrow my mods, but please buy the pattern so Hannah and Brooklyn Tweed get compensated for their beautiful work, and so you’ll have the benefit of all the lovely and refined details therein. And if you’re on Ravelry, I’ll be your best friend if you favorite this one.


p.s. HUGE THANKS to my friend Marion Brenner for snapping these photos of me in the Walpole. If you’re not familiar with Marion’s work or her famous garden, check it out in the February 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living. (It starts on page 126.) I’ll have more to say about Marion — and her knitting — soon.

45 thoughts on “The elusive chunky Walpole, with glamour shots and mod details

  1. It looks fabulous! You really did make it your own. And I love the glamour shots. I need to take some of the cowl today.

  2. This is why I love knitting. Taking someone else’s ideas/design and making them your own. I love the yarn substitution too, chunky knit cardigans are the way forward (even though I am about to cast on a sport weight one – the glutton for punishment that I am). You should be super proud of yourself with how this turned out, I know I would be!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! I’ve been kinda, sorta waiting for it….before I started mine. Only because I knew you would have tips and ideas for us. :) Once again, you’ve picked the perfect color/yarn. It’s beautiful, Karen. It looks amazing on you. I love that you have such a knack for this and are willing to share. I’m still in jaw-drop mode that you changed the gauge and made it work perfectly!! I’d be so afraid to change the gauge on a sweater like this, so I am impressed. And inspired.

    Thank you for taking the time to write everything out, it helps so much. I feel like I just got a class on the Walpole. Just in time! Where do I send my check….??

  4. You’re such a fearless knitter! (Starting here and moving backwards on the posts I have missed of late…) Looks GREAT!

  5. I love it. It looks great and your photos show it off perfectly. I love the colour, which looks great with denim. I don’t feel in any way ready to knit a cardigan yet, but I’ve bookmarked the pattern for when I’m feeling brave.
    Thanks for your lovely comments on my cowl the other day

  6. Karen! This cardigan is perfect. Your posture is envious.
    Take a look at this link,
    for help with future seaming projects. I especially like that in addition to a photograph, they have included a drawing of the knitted fabric…I seem to “see” what they are describing best in the drawing. For your Walpole, you would be using the “Invisible Vertical to Horizontal Seam method”.

    I couldn’t stop thinking about the Queensland yarn after our trip…kicking myself for not buying some also…I actually ordered a bag of it a few months back. I have 3 projects on needles currently…resisting casting on your modified Walpole. Dammit.

    • Thanks for the link, Meg — I’ll check it out. I was remembering this morning that there was some trauma that night I cast on in the hotel lobby and we were trying to figure out what was wrong, but now I can’t remember what it was. Didn’t it turn out that nothing was wrong other than I hadn’t calculated correctly for the ribbing multiple plus the collar stitches or something?

  7. It’s a lot cooler with the chunkier yarn. Maybe it’s the way you wore it (loose with the always awesome chambray/jean combo)? The original didn’t really do anything for me but looking at these photos I want one of my own. Now. ;)

    • I don’t know that I like it better than the original. I’d love to have the oversized, fingering-weight version. But someone else would have to knit it for me! But I am glad I made the choices I did. I know I wouldn’t have worn it if I’d made it in the original dimensions at the bulky gauge, even as light as this yarn is. I couldn’t figure out what I’d pair it with.

  8. You go girl! Being a witness to the beginning of this sweater I must say I had my doubts. But you have proven me wrong. A fabulous result and isn’t it nice that you now a sweater that you love?
    Having knit so many sweaters that I don’t wear for one reason or the other (usually selecting the wrong yarn) I can’t begin to tell you how envious I am of your Walpole.

    • I know what you mean. I never wear that speckled blue-green pullover, as proud as I am of it. And have frogged so many sweaters because I just know I won’t want to wear them in the end. It’s surprisingly hard to find things that I both want to knit and to wear. But I do think this one will get a lot of use in my chilly new office.

      I’m curious, though — what were your doubts? You sure didn’t let on.

  9. Well, going from the recommended fingering to chunky was enough for me to have doubts. Being able to convert such a huge yarn difference was/is beyond my capabilities!
    You and Meg, both, are able to do that and it amazes me. I know you have heard Meg tell me that using a sport weight instead of a worsted weight will work. But you took such a leap in yarns………Needless to say I’m impressed.

    • That makes sense. I just wondered whether it was the success of the conversion you were dubious about, or whether the sweater would look good at the bigger gauge.

    • Jo,
      I just got Ann Budd’s ‘The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters’ which might be useful for you. It goes in to great detail on converting yarn weights with a ton of charts for conversions…I haven’t really had a chance to get into it yet, but I think it might help you!

  10. Thanks for the info on Ann Budd’s book. I’ll, for sure, look for it . I need all the help I can get! When Meg attempts to explain “getting gauge” using a different yarn weight….well, lets just say that my eyes glaze over.

    • You’re welcome! It really isn’t bad as it sometimes sounds…

      I just think of it as ‘trusting your gauge swatch’.
      – if you know how many stitches equal an inch in the yarn you are using
      – and you know how many inches you need at a certain point of the sweater (I usually just match to the diagram with all the measurements across chest, hem, etc.),
      – then you just multiply the stitches by the inches you need to get the exact stitch count.

      • That’s how I look at gauge, too. Not so much trying to match anyone else’s, but as a path to my own desired outcome. Been meaning to do a post about that.

        • The biggest challenge for me is knowing ‘my desired outcome’! I keep shifting the goalposts instead of making firm decisions before starting a project. But then I suppose that is the beauty of letting the project take its head and become something unique in it’s own right?

          Or so I tell myself as I frog another 2 weeks worth of work. Heh.

  11. I am so glad I found this! I loved Walpole (basically all of Hannah Fettig’s designs), but also decided no way when I saw the words fingering weight yarn. (I understand why they use it, but still, it discourages lots of us from knitting it) I’m putting this on the to-do list now! Thanks so much!

    • You’re welcome!

      Of course, there are lots of people who love light sweaters, and have the patience to knit them. I just don’t have that particular talent.

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  15. Lovely sweater! I am working on the Walpole right now and am afraid that I’m not doing the iCord edging correctly. How do you do a knit stitch with the yarn in front??? When I look up iCord on YouTube the instructions are much different than what’s on the pattern.

    • You don’t knit with the yarn in front — a knit stitch is always worked with the yarn in back. This edging is definitely not like standard i-cord, so you’re better off just doing as the pattern instructs rather than trying to think of it as or compare it to standard i-cord.

  16. Hi Karen! Do you still wear this sweater? I haven’t noticed it in your recent wardrobe posts, but it seems like such a great basic! I’m asking, because your version has been in my queue for so long, and I’m finally thinking it’s time to cast on — I’ve been thinking an oatmeal color would work with just about everything I own. But I’m also curious if it has stood the test of time for you.

    • I gave it away a few years ago! It was a perfectly great sweater, but the lack of proper bands and closure just didn’t ultimately work for me.

      • Thanks! That’s great info. I do love the look of the sweater, but I can imagine the lack of closure could get annoying for me since I like to bundle up. Maybe I’ll start hunting around for something else…

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