The tale of a little jumper

Once upon a time, there was a woman with a feverish imagination and far too much yarn.  Her imagination had only been further stoked by the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook–ordered after various enthusiastic reviews on blogs and podcasts of her acquaintance.  This one, for instance. This book had been taken on a couple of holidays where it had led to hikes to find the closest stationery shop and purchase graph paper… followed by much sketching and colouring in and even more fevered imagining of stranded colourwork knobby club rush

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and stranded colourwork bike racks

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and stranded colourwork public artworks

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and stranded colourwork ruined jetties standing in the incoming tide.

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Each time, though, the woman who already had far too much yarn would be driven to a screeching halt by the complete absence of dozens of colours of Jamieson’s shetland wool in her already overwhelming collection, and a return to her far too time consuming paid day job.

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Why, she would think, would it make sense for me to buy more wool when I am spinning more on a regular basis and have entire fleeces waiting in the garage?  Why would it make sense to import wool from the UK when I am trying to reduce my carbon footprint, however inadequately?  On the other hand, what to do about having so much yarn in different weights, gauges, colours, breeds… this is nothing like having hundreds of yarns in the same nice neat breed and grist to knit, is it?


Then, one day, she was preparing to go to a retreat at Tin Can Bay where surely there would be more knitting time than usual…she remembered how the last such experience (a workshop with India Flint in Melbourne) had triggered a breakthrough into her first really exciting stranded colourwork ever–and two handed colourwork knitting (and no, India wasn’t trying to teach these things–but that’s the way learning and inspiration go hand in hand when they go really well…)


and there was a bigger than usual surge of blood to her head… and then there was a furious last-minute gathering of the Sourcebook and of skeins despite the lack of time to convert them into centre pull balls… and the addition of a nostepinne (to allow the hand winding of skeins into said balls)… and some creative suitcase stuffing…(although some choices had to be made) and all the pinks, purples and oranges got left at home.

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There were last minute consultations about measurement followed up by long distance text messages with schematics… in short, there was some co-operation coupled with serious planetary alignment.  Though it must be admitted that one of the graph exercise books–the one with the favoured designs in it–defied discovery.

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And then, there was some fabulous creative retreat time and delight and more downtime in the evening than usual, even if in dubiously dim light. And so a jumper began to take shape.  And was relentlessly encouraged by her new-found friends.

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Until one fine day, this jumper that had been knit in two states, on planes, by the beach, in class, by the TV, at the Guild… that had turned out to be smaller than anticipated but still to fit for the moment… came to a conclusion. It had a nice bath and pat into shape.

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By this time it had started many conversations with strangers about potential sale which had to be rebuffed by explaining what gifts from the heart are.  There had also been many unsolicited comments on the terrible ungratefulness and wool washing habits of young things these days.  They gave rise to explanations of the extremely loving, warm reception of all such gifts in the particular family for which it was destined, and their dedication to treating wool as it should be treated and washing and darning when the occasion requires.  And a lot of gratefulness in the heart of the knitter for the presence of such near and dear people in her life.

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Needless to say, this garment reached a final shape full of all kinds of wonky peculiarities and uniquenesses, which will not be further detailed.  Once it was pulled over the head of the recipient, they didn’t seem important anymore.

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Knitsonik’s design of a road leading into the distance made it onto the front, looking more like waves in this set of colours.

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All kinds of asymmetry made their way onto the sleeves.

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The yarns are mostly from Malcolm the corriedale (may he rest in peace), a sheep who had a long and well loved life in the Adelaide Hills, and a pet Polwarth, also from the Hills.  The creamy pale yellow is from an exhaust bath of coreopsis saved by my mother, a fabulous and generous gardener.  The greens are from that same coreopsis and from osage orange shavings donated to the Guild overdyed with indigo.  The blues are from indigo.  The jumper was designed with much guesswork with help from the intended recipient, my fairy goddess-son (and lots of help from his mother, my friend)–and with so much encouragement from friends, retreat companions and strangers.

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Spinning

26 responses to “The tale of a little jumper

  1. SubmarineBells

    That sweater looks *absolutely stunning* now that it is finished! It’s so cool to see the sources of inspiration that led to your final design. I love your design skills to bits, btw. Keep up the most excellent work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Susan

    I saw WAVES and starry, starry nights and, and, and……….what a great jumper! All the greens and blues go straight to my heart. Interesting re the conversations with folk who just chime/join in. Great job!


  3. The tale of the little jumper had such a happy ending. It is breathtakingly beautiful! I love it, thanks for sharing 🙂


  4. Isobel mcgarry

    Mary you are such a darling xxx


  5. It’s gorgeous. I’m chuckling over the ” relentless encouragement “…let alone the parallel learning curves 🙂


    • Thanks! I have been known to dish out relentless encouragement but apparently I respond to it too! When I went to that workshop in melbs I took along a two colour slipper pattern and some eucalypt orange and coreopsis yellow yarn. I was treating myself to breakfast out each morning (my daughter doesn’t run to breakfast, I discover) and knitting at the table for the amusement of other patrons. Day 1 was incredibly slow going. I think it was day 2 when the breakthrough occurred and all of a sudden I realised I could pick (knit continental/German/Norwegian style) and throw (English/US/–style) with one yarn in each hand–woot! By the time I had that and your ingenious way of putting a knot in the end of stitching thread, I felt I’d had a great trip already… and the food at Pope Joan is pretty darn good too!


  6. It’s beautiful Mary! I knew it would be of course. Hope it gets plenty of wear, and maybe even passed on to other kids and worn out entirely as all good wollies should be. PS this is nicole from Tin can bay.


  7. so kind of you to share, such a gorgeous gift, such clever hands


  8. purplejulian

    very very clever hands doing it that way, wow! the hardest thing with fairisle knitting is the tension once you have got used to manipulating the 2 threads. what a lovely design, stars and roads/waves, it’s beautiful. the great thing about handknits is that if looked after properly they get passed down and treasured by further generations – I am sure this will be.


  9. THIS MADE MY DAY! What a beautiful jumper with wondrous, highly personal details… with beauteous adventures stitched into its being…

    I especially love your account of MALCOLM, GIVER OF SUPERLATIVE CORRIEDALE YARNS, MAY HE REST IN PEACE, and reading about all the dyestuffs and knitting venues involved. I also love the prospect of “stranded colourwork knobby club rush”: that’s a band I’d pay to see.

    Am thrilled the recipient of your amazing knitted artwork is appreciative of WOOL and I hope your graph exercise book turns up soon.



  10. What an awesome experience! The sweater us gorgeous, and all handspun. It’s a good thing you made it with love for someone you love and knowing they appreciate it all!
    Totally worth it.


  11. wonderful woolly, wonderful backstory!


  12. And it is absolutely the most amazing and wonderful thing! I am in total awe. Go you 😀


  13. Pingback: Jeans | Local & Bespoke

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