Reorganizing my to-knit list

Reorganizing my to-knit list

Sooooo, wardrobe planning. Where was I? Let’s see: handmade wardrobe, quicker sweaters, choosing wisely … right. My very favorite thing about making my own clothes — control freak that I am — is having near-total control. You know what it’s like to decide you want some specific thing and then try to find it: Impossible. But if you’re making things yourself, you have a little more flexibility to actually imagine your ideal wardrobe and then bring it to fruition, as opposed to being at the mercy of what’s in stores. I’m saying “near-total” and “a little more flexibility” because unless you’re weaving your own fabric or spinning and dyeing your own yarn, you’re still a little at the mercy of what’s in stores — they’re just different kinds of stores.

Still and all, I am dreaming up the basics I want in my closet and working out those little issues of what yarns and fabrics are available — and that includes shopping my stash. I have three more basic/timeless cardigans at the head of the list (and tops to go under them, but that’s for another post): Bellows, being a chunky, slouchy shawl-collar; Uniform, being a classic v-neck, without the shaped neckband; and Channel, being a more refined shawl-collar. And I want them in just the right combination of timeless neutrals. (To add to my ivory Amanda cable sweater, brown Acer cable-and-lace jobbie, and purple Trillium, the one spot of color.)

I’m nearing the end of Amanda and have found myself plagued by it and by my mental wranglings over what yarn to use for Bellows. Tormented! In my sleep. I knew I wanted (needed — both from a quick-finish and freezing-weather perspective) Bellows to be next, but could not figure out the right yarn. Or even the right color. I was thinking light heather grey, since Channel is meant to be charcoal and camel-colored yarn is so distressingly hard to come by. But after debating every possible worsted-weight (held double) and bulky on the market, I finally realized the answer was right in front of me. When I first ordered the Graphite O-Wool Balance for Channel, I ordered 21 skeins and had no idea why so much. I just had to have it. Then came the realization that I was going to have to alternate skeins for the entire sweater, which is unfortunate. After swatching for Bellows with O-Wool Balance Bulky (in the color I just happened to have in my stash, a light purple), and not loving the stitch pattern, I started wondering if I even really wanted this sweater. I decided to knit another swatch holding two strands of the graphite Balance together, and I fell in love with that swatch and got more excited than ever. As fabulous as Channel was looking in this color, it was meant for Bellows, and the universe told me to buy enough way back when. Right? Plus using the yarn held double means the skeins will automatically be blended, especially if I stagger the ends. It’s perfect on every level.

Then there’s Uniform. Since tossing off the idea of reassigning my Slade yarn to Uniform, I’ve become obsessed with the idea of this ultra-classic sweater in army green. I’m trying to work out if I can eke it out of the mismatched skeins I have (and feel like dealing with possible gauge differences) or if I’ll need to choose something else. If it does have to be something else, leading candidates are Knightsbridge in Bishop’s Green and Balance again in Malachite. But I love the idea of two sweaters from stash.

So where does that leave Channel? I’m not 100% sure. I want it to either be a silvery heather grey, light camel, or a tweedy oatmeal. And I want the yarn less rustic than some of the others, more snuggly around my neck. So I’m exploring my nicely-plied merino options, for softness with stitch definition. I’m particularly curious about Shepherd’s Wool, and have ordered a ball for swatching. If you’ve knitted with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how it wears. And if you have any other recommendations for worsted-weight, soft but not gooey, heather/tweed neutrals and affordable, I’d love to hear it!


66 thoughts on “Reorganizing my to-knit list

  1. Cascade 220 — super affordable, worsted weight, soft (but not too soft) and wears very well! Plus they sell it at almost every LYS and it comes in a gazillion colors :) Quince and Co. Lark would be my second choice. Good luck!

    • I was thinking about Lark for Bellows when I was thinking heather grey, and it would be a good choice for Channel is I decide on grey. I wish there were more heathers in Lark — I’m not wild about flat colors. But I wonder if I could get away with Owl for Channel or if it would get too heavy …

      • I have yet to knit with Owl, so I can’t say how heavy it would be. It does seem like a lovely yarn. I would also second another commenters suggestion for Ultra Alpaca. I have knit a few sweaters from it and I love how soft they are yet how well they wear. It wears more like a wool yarn but with the halo and softness of alpaca!

      • I love quince and co, but their Lark Heathers pill very badly. From the makeup of the skeins the regular colors seem better in the Lark. None of their other bases have pilled like that for me. Thanks for the post! I loved discovering the O Wools

  2. I can’t stop thinking about my next sweater, either. I want an everyday piece that knits up really fast – like Trillium? – before I can catch up with my very cabled Ondawa.

  3. I love the softness of Spud and Chloe Sweater yarn in Beluga, but it may not have the drape you want although the stitch definition would be good. My thought is to go for a Bare Naked Wool option….

    • I have an aversion to superwash but since Sweater is a blend, is it squeaky like other superwash?

      I forgot about Bare Naked — gonna go take another look at the palette.

  4. I absolutely love Shepherd’s Wool. I knit fingerless mitts last year that saw daily use all winter and they still look and feel brand new.

  5. Shepherd’s Wool is beautiful, but I made a hat in it and found that it did not retain its shape very well, over time. I had to wash it often in order for it to stay on my head – I’ve made many hats using this particular pattern and none of the others did that, so I blame the yarn. The mittens I made with it are lovely, but there is definite fuzzing/pilling (i.e. not good for cabling or texture, IMO). But the cowl I made with it is delicious. I could swim in a vat of that yarn. But I might not use it for a sweater…

  6. Hi Karen, I can just tell we are going to become great knitting buddies. :)

    I actually discovered a Yarn Store in NYC who carries Stonehedge Fibers and recently ordered a skein or two of their Crazy or Crazy Multigrain Loaf. They actually also carry the Shepherd’s Wool so you’ll have to let us know how your swatch works out!!/Stonehedge-Exclusives/c/9200573/offset=0&sort=normal. See what you think.

    Bye for now and thanks.

    ================================================================= You wrote: I’m particularly curious about Shepherd’s Wool, and have ordered a ball for swatching. If you’ve knitted with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts about how it wears.

  7. My first ever hat and scarf last year were in Shepherd’s Wool (coming up on my one-year anniversary of knitting!), and I’ve been wanting to dive back into that beautiful yarn. I can’t speak for its wearability for a sweater, but I am curious to hear the answers for sure. Have you looked at Quince and Co Owl? It might be a little more rustic than you want, but it comes in great neutral colors and it is so snuggly when you wash it up. My first sweater was in it, and it seems to be wearing well about one year later. I haven’t used Lark, but I did knit a sweater in Chickadee, which was a wonderful yarn to work with (so springy!) and has worn really well. I would imagine Lark would be equally as wonderful. There’s also Swan’s Island, but that is definitely a pricier option. I’m also keen to try Berocco’s Ultra Alpaca because I’ve heard so many great things. It’s very reasonably priced and has nice colors too.

    • I’m reluctant to use alpaca (or any other drapey/heavy fiber) for this because I don’t want it to get, uh, drapey or heavy. But I am wondering whether I could get away with Owl since it’s woolen spun. Might need to swatch it and see if there’s a color that lights me up.

  8. Well, I would say De Rerum Natura Gilliat, here:, because it fits all the bills. It is a woolen spun merino, you could go with the very nice poivre. I love it and use it all the time. It is missing a lovely red, in my book, but otherwise it is my go-to yarn, mostly for the one reason you might not want to order it: It is French…. So quite local for me but not so much for you.

  9. Berroco Ultra Alpaca is one of my favorite heathery soft yarns. Bonus? It’s affordable for a sweater. I just finished the Uniform Cardi knit out of 70% off Shibui Merino Alpaca (otherwise unaffordable), and I must say it really is the perfect basic cardigan and a joy to knit. Very well written pattern, lots of options for customizing, an easy go to wardrobe staple.

  10. I knit a sweater in Shepherd’s Wool in a marled black and gray, and found it lovely to work with but pilly. Perhaps a solid would not be as bad…I wanted to love it as I am from Michigan and it is a “local” buy for me, but alas. My experience is somewhat limited as skin sensitivities limit me to merinos so I am prepared for some pilling, and I am anxious to read what others write about this otherwise lovely yarn.

  11. I knit the Channel sweater in Shepherd’s Wool, raspberry. I love it. I try not to wash it a lot, but I am wearing the sweater a lot. It does have some pilling. I’d be interested on a post from you regarding yarn shavers. I have a stone of some sort, but it leaves debris around when I’m using it. I have another sweater in Shepherd’s Wool too, and now I’m thinking of doing an Alice Starmore shawl in with some more I have in my stash. It just feels so wonderful against the skin!!

  12. Like you, my fingers are continuously at work on sweaters for my hand made wooly wardrobe, while my mind is many sweaters ahead! Right now I’m knitting Elskling, an easy but interesting garment, out of Harrrisville Tweed’s Highland, Oatmeal color. Originally I wanted Quince’s Owl, which was sold out, so I turned to Highland. This yarn is great! Sturdy yet soft and not as sticky-felty as Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter. A gorgeous range of colors which are the same in the fingering weight. My next -to -be sweaters are going be Harrisville yarns. I do like a non- scratchy yarn but avoid super soft squishy short staple yarns ( merino, for one) like the plague for sweaters or mitts or socks. They just do not hold up.

  13. I’ve seen a few sweaters in Shepherd’s Wool and they’ve pilled tremendously. It felts really nicely though so I love it for that.
    I would highly recommend Q&Co Lark. I made Michelle Wang’s Stonecutter for myself in Egret and Hugo for my partner in Sabine and both turned out SOOOO nice and both been wearing beautifully. I wanted to make my Channel in Soft Donegal but couldn’t get gauge so now contemplating using Lark. It’s now one of my go-to yarns… I’ve also made On The Grass pullover in Malabrigo Rios Vaa that I constantly wear in the fall/winter and that has also been holding up beautifully. Minimal pilling and so soft!

  14. I have worked with Shepherd’s Wool about 4 times, three of them for felting. It’s very soft but unless washed carefully it felts quickly.

  15. I’m currently using Shepherd’s for a cabled project and so far so good. It feels great to work with. I did see a sample knit of some gloves at my local store in Shepherd’s that was kind of pilled but that sample has (literally) been man handled by customers for 6 years, so who knows if that’s a good judge.

  16. Why is camel-colored yarn so difficult to find? It’s one of my most flattering colors and I would love a sweater made out of it. The only true camel hue I have in my stash right now is some Blue Sky Alpaca Alpaca Silk in Flax, a color they don’t make anymore, beyond the fact that it’s expensive and not appropriate for a sweater due to the silk content. The closest I can ever find to camel (and they aren’t even that close) are ochre and more cool-toned light browns.

    • There must not be enough demand for it, but I don’t understand that! Fibre Company is pretty good with having camel in their palette but I don’t think any of the yarns are quite right for Channel.

  17. Shepherd’s Wool is a fantastic yarn – tons of colors, soft, great company! Although, if you’re feeling more wealthy, I’m currently completely obsessed with Woolfolk which feels exactly like cashmere to me.

  18. Karen, I too have moved Bellows quickly up my list. I’m dying to do a marled version in BT Fossil and Cast Iron but I’m a little worried that it would be too trendy.

    As for Shepherd’s Wool, I actually knit a Slade Cardigan in it. (See: I loved the yarn in the shop, as I was knitting, and the final feel and look of it after blocking. But be warned, it grew considerably after a good soak and in the end it just wasn’t a good fit for the design. It created a very heavy fabric. I can’t comment on pilling as it’s never been worn! Good luck!

    • That’s so sad about Slade!

      Is marl trendy? I’m a forever and always marl devotee. I thought about it with Bellows, too, but worry about the stitch patterns being obliterated by the marl. But one of my favorite sweaters is a marled fisherman-cable cardigan from Madewell a few years ago that’s 100% cotton and weighs a bloody ton, so I’m always thinking about what to replace it with.

  19. Shepherd’s Wool is a lovely, lovely yarn – for everything but sweaters! It pills horribly – it is very soft and therein lies the problem. I’d recommend Cascade 220 for an all-around general, all-purpose workhorse of a yarn. No pilling in the sweater I made with it. Or Valley Yarns Northhampton from Webs. It too is a wonderful workhorse yarn that doesn’t pill and is somewhat softer than Cascade 220. They both are true worsteds.

  20. Sadly, I’m quite inexperienced with yarns. Never really thought of the difference until I found knitting blogs some time ago! Can’t wait to see what you decide on this one.

    Went to my lys the other day, got overwhelmed (I’m terribly indecisive) and stressed out by my screaming kids that I just grabbed some skeins of wool/possom blend purely chosen by colour. Does anyone have any experience working with possom? Will it work with cabling? Is it only suitable for scarves and beanies?

    It’s a good thing that you’re doing your research before impulse shopping…

  21. Merino pills. That is the nature of a fine, short staple fiber. For more long lasting results with less pilling try a long wool, like blue face leicester, Romney , or a more mixed breed wool. Refer to Clara Parkes book, the Knitter’s Book of Wool for more education on fibers, also good discussion with Clara on podcast with Hannah Fettig on breed specific wools.

    • Thanks, Tracy. I’m actually concerned about long-term wear more than pilling — am aware of the concern with merino staple length. What I find odd about Shepherd’s Wool is the highly conflicting reviews. Like if you read the Ravelry comments, they’re half “omigod so pilly!” and half “no pills!” Which just has me super curious.

      One of the biggest draws of Woolfolk Far is the incredibly long staple length for softest merino on earth.

  22. I didn’t read every comment, so I’m not sure if it’s been recommended yet, but you might like Harrisville Watershed:
    I haven’t used it yet, but it is on my “buy next” list. I just have to pick the project!
    Specifically, the colours: “meadows”, “driftwood”, and “granite” might be you your liking. Meadows is my favourite, but I also like the deep subtle tones in Canal.
    It’s a soft-spun yarn, so it won’t be too heavy!
    It is very heathered, though… maybe too much for Channel?

  23. From the comments, I went researching Stonehedge Fiber Mill (yes, people really do read what you write and act on it!). While this is probably not suitable sweater colorway, I am in love with the random Crazy and Multigrain Loaf!
    It is sold exclusively at The yarn co in NYC.

    Thanks for starting so many conversation on your next sweater and appropriate yarns. I have started two sweaters disastrously (first one with SQUEEKY, mass produced yarn-ick, second with mass produced cotton and a bad pattern). I am still searching for my sweater + yarn love for my first success! Seeing your posts over the past two years, I have courage that I can create a sweater I love even if it isn’t perfect. I keep coming back to many Brooklyn Tweed patterns and think that maybe a sweater in Shelter is a good start?? I am into completely American-made yarns and like to support our local efforts whenever possible. Thanks to you and to all the commenters for talking about yarns and their properties. Nothing worse for a newbie that to knit a sweater with crappy yarn!

  24. I’d like to add to the chorus for Cascade 220. I was very pleasantly surprised by the softness as it holds up really well. I’m definitely knitting more sweaters with this yarn. I have to disagree with those recommending Ultra Alpaca for a sweater, unless it’s knit at a tight gauge. My sweater drooped and shed like crazy. I knit a hat in a tight gauge (stranded) and its held up better although I can only wear it a little before I have to re-block, as it loosens. I really like Ultra Alpaca for mittens and fingerless mitts. I haven’t had the same issues with the light or fine versions of this yarn. Maybe they are spun with more twist? Anyway, I love your blog and how you share your thinking processes and generate great discussions also!

  25. I have to agree, Cascade 220 is a great, great yarn. Yes, it is mass-produced, no, it’s not local or hand dyed or “special” in any other way. But it’s inexpensive and well made and comes in great colors. I knit one of my first sweaters out of it circa 2009 or ’10 and it still looks fantastic and I wear it a LOT.
    Lark is another option I can reccommend from experience. It has a more feel-good backstory, which is nice. It’s not quite as economical as 220 – but, when you think about it, it’s actually pretty economical for US-made, New England processed, woman-owned, small business, etc. I do like supporting Quince. The sweater I knit with Lark two winters ago is holding up nicely, too.
    One last suggestion- Briggs and Little Heritage. I knit my husband a sweater out of Heritage about three years ago and I’m amazed at how nice it still looks (he wears it frequently and isn’t exactly gentle with it). Not a soft yarn at all, but it creates garments that last.

  26. You could try Swans Island Worsted All-American – I’ve been dying to try some. I also second the Harrisville idea!

  27. I love the “find the yarn” game! Cascade 220 is definitely a workhorse yarn, very affordable and loads of colours. Ella Rae is a similar yarn. I find Harrisville Highland a bit scratchy for my taste, but will wear like iron!

    A few more ideas for yarns to check out, though I haven’t used any of them: Rowan Felted Tweed Aran, Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester Aran, Cascade Eco Cloud (super soft, nice light chainette construction), Classic Elite Crestone, Valley Yarns Northampton.

  28. Shepherds wool pills. Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t used their item long or rough. Adding imy recs for harrisville (highland is so, so good. Shetland is too.), de rarem, and quince. Quince chickadee is a spectacular yarn, but all their colors are flat flat flat. Have you looked at knitspot’s bare naked wools? Natural colors only and pricey pricey, but there’s not a better wearing and better looking yarn from a more knowledgable source anywhere. Anne Hanson is an unparalleled force.

  29. Hi Karen! I haven’t knit with it yet, but I just got a whack of Imperial Yarn Columbia 2-ply. It feels squishy and lofty, but softer than Shelter. The Pearl Gray is a perfect light heather gray, and most of the other colors I saw at the shop were more heathered than they look on the IY site. Here: or for better color representation. I’d love to hear more about your yarn selection process as you go through options.

  30. Beaverslide drygoods has a lovely 90% wool, 10% merino that wears well, is slightly tweedy and shows stitches (cables) nicely. My cinnamon girl cardigan is made out of woodsmoke. Heavy worsted to Aran. Not too spendy either and USA raised and processed.

  31. Pingback: First of the Best of Pre-Fall 2015: Camel sweaters | Fringe Association

  32. Pingback: Swatch debates | Fringe Association

  33. Karen what is the pattern on this page bottom right cable red shawl collar? I cannot find it anywhere. Thanks

  34. I’m just reading some of these posts now since I started swatching with O-Wool balance for a Slade cardigan today. (ugh.. so much debating here as well! but that’s another story)

    I might have an idea for your Channel:
    I’ve tryed to use this yarn, I have an extra ball of Rowan kid classic here in a camel color that is SO PERFECT. It’s 877 “Mellow” but really, it is the most classic shade of camel. Like a vintage wool peacoat. I wanted so badly to knit my Exeter cardigan with this wool, but I would have needed to order it online and that was a bit tricky for me. Since it’s spring, most yarn stores won’t order more of this quality for a couple months. It’s a lambswool mix and my swatch felt so good. I made mittens with it early (that ball was leftover) and they are so warm. Ended up using Cascade 220 and frankly do not care at all for this yarn! At least it was not too pricy, but I don’t think I’ll knit anything else with it later.

  35. Pingback: Queue Check Deluxe — November/December 2016 | Fringe Association

Comments are closed.