Abram knitalong part 1: choosing your yarn

Folks, it's time for our first Handsome knitalong.

Let's all knit the Abram sweater!

Abram - Abram + Olga

For those just joining us, this is the first of 6 knitalongs I'll be hosting over the coming year -- one for each of the designs in Handsome: Man Sweaters for Every Body. I'll be making a version of each sweater for myself using Jill Draper Makes Stuff yarns. Folks will be sharing their projects, questions, and knowledge in the Handsome Ravelry group.

The Abram KAL will take place over the months of August and September, and I'll be posting here about all the steps in making your sweater, from choosing a yarn to finishing techniques. Knit along with us and post your stuff! #HandsomeKnitting #AbramKAL


The first step is to choose the yarn we'll use for our Abram sweaters. I'm going to talk a bit here about the different yarns I've used for Abram, and the different qualities those yarns give the finished sweater. Then I'll share some tips for yarn substitutions, in case you want to use something else from your stash or LYS.

The original Abram sweater (seen below on, you guessed it, Abram) was made with The Fibre Company's Knightsbridge yarn.

the Abram sweater, knit in The Fibre Company's Knightsbridge yarn, pictured with Dr. Wiggles

the Abram sweater, knit in The Fibre Company's Knightsbridge yarn, pictured with Dr. Wiggles

Knightsbridge is a blend of 65% baby llama, 25% Merino wool, 10% silk. The silk adds to llama's naturally fancy luster and drape, while the wool gives the yarn a bit of bounce and lightens it up. When knit at 5.25 stitches per inch for Abram, the resulting fabric is drapey and very warm, but not overly heavy, even at larger sizes (plus, Abram's seamed construction adds stability to keep the sweater from losing its shape). My favorite thing about Knightsbridge is that the different fibers absorb dye differently, so each colorway is beautifully heathered. The color Beaverden looks like brown from a distance, but actually includes a super-cool melange of blues and purples when seen up close.

 
the many-colored Beaverden

the many-colored Beaverden

 

Stephen's version of Abram was made with Thirteen Mile Yarns undyed yarn.

 
Stephen's woolly marled Abram sweater in Thirteen Mile yarn

Stephen's woolly marled Abram sweater in Thirteen Mile yarn

 

Thirteen Mile Yarns are spun from a mix of fine wool breeds raised at Thirteen Mile Lamb and Wool's Certified Organic ranch in Montana. They come in natural, undyed shades -- including two-tone marled combinations like the one you see here -- as well as plant-dyed colorways. In contrast to Knightsbridge, this fabric is lightweight and classically woolly. The resulting sweater is a versatile casual basic, especially in one of the marled colors.

Olga's femme adaptation of the Abram sweater is made with Catskill Merino sport weight yarn.

 
Olga's femme adaptation of the Abram sweater, in Catskill Merino sport. If you're planning to make this oversized femme version of the sweater, I'll include instructions for adapting the pattern at each stage of the knitalong.

Olga's femme adaptation of the Abram sweater, in Catskill Merino sport. If you're planning to make this oversized femme version of the sweater, I'll include instructions for adapting the pattern at each stage of the knitalong.

 

Catskill Farm's Saxon Merino wool is spun into a 2-ply sport weight at Green Mountain Spinnery, then hand-dyed at the farm in small, limited-edition dye lots. 100% Merino is a joy to knit with, springy and elastic and easy on the hands. The finished sweater is more likely to fuzz and pill than one made from Knightsbridge or Thirteen Mile yarns, but will be sturdy and wonderfully soft to the touch. Because the femme adaptation is oversized, I chose a yarn that has some body but isn't too drapey -- the silk and llama in Knightsbridge would make it too heavy for this version, putting stress on the seams and the sweater at risk of losing its shape over time.

Finally, I'm making my own version of Abram with Jill Draper Makes Stuff Rockwell yarn.

 
my first swatch of Rockwell

my first swatch of Rockwell

 

Rockwell is a 3-ply yarn made with Cormo-Merino crossbred Moorit wool grown and spun in New England. It’s spongy and round, and fluffs up beautifully with blocking. Rockwell comes in gorgeous “mono” colorways, as well as multi-colors like the one I’m using, which is made from three different natural colors of undyed wool.5.25 stitches per inch is quite a snug gauge for Rockwell, so my sweater will be very warm, thick, and sturdy, but still fairly lightweight.

yarn content qualities cost
Fibre Co. Knightsbridge 65% baby llama, 25% Merino wool, 10% silk drapey, lustrous, very warm
$.06 per yard
Thirteen Mile Worsted 100% certified organic Montana wool warm, lightweight, woolly, 2-ply $.08 per yard
Catskill Merino Sport 100% Saxon Merino soft, squishy, elastic, 2-ply $.09 per yard
Jill Draper Rockwell New England Merino/Cormo crossbreed warm, lightweight, spongy, 3-ply $.11 per yard

YARN SUBSTITUTIONS

Some things to keep in mind if you're planning to make your Abram sweater with a yarn not described here:

  • GAUGE, GAUGE, GAUGE: Make a few swatches with different sized needles, wet block them, pin them neatly into shape without stretching until dry, and then measure the stitch and row gauge. You're looking for 21 stitches and 30 rows over 4 inches of stockinette stitch, after blocking.
     
  • FABRIC and FEEL: You should also verify that you actually like the fabric your yarn creates at pattern gauge. For instance, Rockwell's fabric at that gauge is thick and warm, which is perfect for the sweater I'm trying to make. But if you'd like something that drapes a bit more or looks a bit less rustic, then it's not the right fabric for you. So after you block and measure your swatches, spend some intimate time with the swatch that got pattern gauge -- squish it around in your hand, rub it on your face and neck. Imagine a whole Abram sweater made from that fabric, and be sure it's what you want.
     
  • YARN & FIBER QUALITIES: Make sure the characteristics of your yarn work with the design in a way you're going to like. If you want a sweater that feels kinda fancy and drapes around the body, then something with silk, alpaca, or llama (like Knightsbridge) might be a good choice. If you want something lighter weight, then a woolly wool like Thirteen  Mile is probably more suitable for your Abram. (And for more information about choosing the right yarn for a project, check out one of my #1 knitting bibles, Clara Parkes's The Knitter's Book of Yarn.)

So go read the Introduction to Handsome and use it to take measurements, choose a size, and select your custom options.

Next up, we'll talk about those custom options. Then we'll look at the Back and Front pieces, including two different methods for crocheted provisional cast-ons.