Back again with another intarsia odyssey and another colour blocking chart. Since I made the mini-sweater (size 4) for my grand daughter, I expected that making the man’s size would just be bigger. Well, that was true of course, but a LOT bigger but a lot more work too.
This sweater is intended for my older brother for Christmas 2023. He is a plumber by trade and a perfectionist by nature. Among his main leisure activities are dogs (Labrador retrievers), fishing, skeet shooting, darts, hosting annual Halloween parties with his wife and all things construction or trades related. He is rustic, but well read, good humoured and a bit of a potty mouth. He is particularly and exceedingly outgoing and chats well with absolutely everyone. Needless to say, superficially, we are almost complete opposites. He is also one of the hardest people on the planet to buy for because he is very particular.
I had to acknowledge to myself that making this sweater is very risky. Possibly, after all the work I’ll put into creating it, he may not like it or ever wear it. I was taking a big chance. However, I figured worst-case-scenario, it would be something warm for him to wear during his many early morning fishing expeditions so who cares what it looks like, right? It would be warm. I hoped too that with him being a bit older than me, he would remember the jackets our mum made for us and our father back in the dark ages and find this style familiar as I do. Anyway, with these misgivings in mind, I committed myself to the long project resolved to be okay with it if he doesn’t like it.
So Many Decisions
So, my first challenge was to figure out what would be his knitted sweater size. He is slender and average height so using the Mary Maxim pattern 14200-1-2, I selected size 36 based on well, a (hopefully good?) guess. Again, as a present there was no measuring him or checking with him on colours. I guess, if I messed it up, I would just have to get him something else instead. Eyes wide open going in Fran – don’t over think it!
Second up, was the design choice itself. After many deliberations, I went with the pheasant in flight. The design from Mary Maxim, included a dog near the bottom, and crossed guns on the sleeves. After discussion with his wife, she suggested that just the pheasant on the back would be best, but nothing else fussy. She also thought he would rather like the pheasant.
I went with the Titan bulky yarn again. It is machine washable which is important for this type of garment (and recipient). The main colour I chose was a soft oatmeal colour called cottonwood and the tan in this range is a lovely coppery brown for contrast. The intarsia pheasant came with a set of recommended colours that I used as written. Each ball was about 80 yards, so I got 11 balls of the main colour and 6 balls of the contrasting one. I also had to get at least one ball of each of the colours for the pheasant design.
First up – Intarsia Colour Blocking
I cast on 78 stitches for the back panel and began the long journey of a full pheasant in flight using the intarsia method of colour blocking. This meant adding a new ball with literally every colour change. I had done this before a few times, so I knew what to expect. Carefully following each row, I worked across the intarsia chart. I didn’t take any pictures in progress, but I wish I had now! Looking at the finished pheasant, it looks quite simple. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to complete it, so I just took each step as possibly the last. The pheasant started to take shape and it really looked like one. Cool!
I feel like I really nailed the raglan sleeve decreasing stitches this time. I used the lifted right and left decrease which was almost seamless in this bulky yarn. Finally the back was done though and I moved to the next.
Next up were the sleeves. They were HUGE! It felt like there was more knitting for each sleeve than the back. At least I’m getting faster. Finally it was time to move to the two front sides.
Two Front Pockets
Another new challenge: pockets. Now I knew pockets would be essential – especially if it was to be a backup fishing jacket. I researched a lot on how to do this. I was confused for a while but it turned out to be quite easy once I could see how it worked.
First I knitted a stand alone rectangle which would be the back of the pocket. When I got to the size I wanted, I put the live stitches onto a scrap piece of yarn, knitted a second one and set them both aside. As I knitted the front side panel, I found where I wanted to place the top of the pocket. I had to make sure that the bottom of the separate piece I knitted fell down along the back above where the ribbing started. On that row, I cast off the same number of “live” stitches as the pocket back onto a scrap piece of yarn. Then, I knitted the pocket back instead of the original stitches and it was attached just like that.
The rectangle just dangled in the back until I fastened the sides and bottom on the inside with mattress stitches. After finishing the rest of the front, I went back and picked up the live stitches at the top of the pocket. I added 3 rows in knit only (garter stitch) as a edge for the top of the pocket and then stitched in the sides with the same yarn on the back. Wow – not bad eh? I feel almost as proud of the pockets as the intarsia on the back!
I was thinking maybe buttons, but I wasn’t sure how to line them up, so I took the easy route and went with a zipper again. Buttons will be for another project! I’m not going to lie, the weaving in ends for intarsia is incredibly tedious. I’m nervous that if I don’t weave enough, it will all fall apart, but I’m also concerned with making it so thick it distorts the design. I tried to continuously find a compromise between these two concerns and battled on with the weaving in.
Finally got to sewing it altogether. Using the left and right decreases worked really well and the mattress stitch pulled the raglan sleeves together perfectly. Phew! I was getting quite stressed.
In total, it took me about 2 months to knit and I was incredibly pleased with how it came out in the end. Now I get to sit here for another few weeks wondering if he will like it or not – at least not hate it. I wrapped it and carried on with other Christmas preparations.
So, the day of Christmas 2023 finally arrived and it was time for the big reveal. Would he hate it or wear it? Was it going to be too big maybe or worse, too small? Would he hate the colours or the pheasant on the back? I couldn’t give away to him that I was nervous either so it wouldn’t seem like be a big deal if he didn’t like it.
I was resolved to be fine either way right? Anyway, I had talked myself off the ledge several times already and done was done. I was tough. Oh, why did I put myself in this position again?
Just be cool.
The fit was perfect. I mean it really fits! Perfectly.
I think he genuinely likes it too. He kept saying how cozy and comfortable it is. My sister-in-law said that he has been telling people that his sister made it for him! Which means he wears it and appreciates it and talks to people about it.
OMG! I am so so glad I went for it. Never again though. New rule for me: only make things for people when they explicitly ask you for them (although I already wonder how often I will break that rule in the future though).
Just look at that fit though! Wow.