While browsing Ravelry a few months back I was drawn to the stunning colourwork yokes designed by Jennifer Steingass. Having never attempted any stranded colourwork knitting, I was slightly unsure where to start. Excited, albeit slightly trepidatious, I selected the Altheda sweater pattern and ordered some Plotulopi yarn. I have been obsessing about these big squishy plates of Icelandic wool (and I’m pleased to say it was as rustic and interesting as I expected) yet decided to hold it will some mohair for extra softness – but more on that later. Welcome to my Altheda review!
How it knit up:
I truly adore the understated and simple colourwork of the Altheda sweater – complements to Jennifer Steingass for making such a pretty pattern. Unfortunately, I managed to thoroughly confuse myself about tension as a colourwork novice. I can not overstate the number of times I’ve heard people recommend you increase needle size when working colourwork compared to stockinette. Bearing this in mind, when the stitches felt so tight at the beginning I went up a few needle sizes and then sized back down for the stockinette. This was a major error. As a result there is quite a bit of unintended puff around the chest and shoulders. This is what I get when I try to ‘freestyle it’. Despite these issues, the Altheda Sweater pattern did such a great job at introducing me to stranded colourwork and the resulting sweater is still a stunning piece. I will definitely make one again now I’m feeling more confident!
Pattern specifics and sizing:
The Altheda is designed for bust sizes from 84.5 to 142 (33¼ to 56″). 5 – 10cm of positive ease (approx. 2 – 4″) is recommended.
Altheda is created top down and worked in the round with seamless construction which begins with the garter stitch neckline. The stranded colourwork yoke is knitted from a simple chart which is an absolute pleasure to follow. Short rows are included at the back to improve the fit on the bust and shoulders. Once this is done, the sleeves are separated and the body is worked in stockinette. The pattern uses garter stitch to create the hem, but I opted for simple ribbing. After this, the sleeves are knit in the round and also finished with garter stitch (again, I switched this for ribbing).
Plotulopi is the yarn recommendation, and for a change, I followed it! However, upon arrival of the 100% Icelandic wool ‘plates’, I noticed it was coarser yet also more delicate than I anticipated. To counterbalance this I held the Plotulopi together with one strand of Drops Kid Silk. The mohair really did it’s job of adding softness and stability to the lopi – it also boosted the already substantial halo.
Before my purchase, I noticed there was quite a lot of debate about the scratchiness of Icelandic lopi wool. I have to truthfully report that Plotulopi is indeed slightly scratchy, but I do find it bearable with an undershirt which covers my chest/neck region (this is where I seem particularly sensitive). Despite being slightly rough on the skin, this yarn is as warm and rustic as promised.
In conclusion, I will be knitting with more Iceland wool but using it for super warm garments which I can layer with a top underneath.
Things I love about this pattern:
- The yoke looks elaborate while feeling quite simple to create. This was one of the first times I knit from a chart, but the instructions were very clear so I found it easy and quite addictive to knit. Jennifer Steingass also has so many other beautiful colourwork yoke jumpers to choose from.
- The recommended unspun Plotulopi yarn is a perfect pairing for this jumper. Not only is it reasonably priced, but the long rustic strands make it quite forgiving if you make any small mistakes. I added some extra mohair for softness and strength. As a result, the colours bleed together in a really lovely way. I also ended with quite a bit of both colours leftover.
- The garter stitch at the neckline creates a gorgeous dainty start to the yoke which really gives a crisp finish to the garment.
Things I would change:
- Owing to this being my first larger colourwork project, I panicked when the start of the yoke felt super tight, so I went up a couple of needle sizes. Later on I gained more confidence knitting with both hands and catching my floats which evened out the tension. However, I compounded this issue with the foolish error of changing back to the gauge needle for the stockinette section. As a result, there is a strange puckering and puffiness around the yoke which ends in the stockinette part. On the brightside, the jumper is still so pretty and warm + it taught me where I was going wrong with my problematic tension in the beginning.
- This is something that I did change rather than something I would change: the garter stitch cuffs and hem. It’s just my preference to go for the fit and finish of a ribbed cuff instead of the garter (sometimes I find my garter stitch doesn’t look particularly neat).
Needles, Yarn & Details:
Yarn: Istex Plotulopi in Oatmeal Heather and Ash Grey Heather (DK, 100g – 300m) for £5.99 per plate at Wool Warehouse. Held with Drops Kid Silk in Beige (Lace, 25g – 210m) for £3.80 per ball – also from Wool Warehouse.
Needles: 3.5mm (US 4) and 3.75mm (US 5) circular needles. I knitted this project on my Lykke Interchangeables available here.
Gauge: 20 x 28 (As previously mentioned, I struggled with this in the stranded colourwork yoke, but got there eventually.)
You can find this pattern on Ravelry here.