Owls knitalong: Choosing yarn and knitting a swatch

Hello Everyone! Today is the first day of the owls knitalong. There is a small group of us knitting along to make this great jumper pattern by Kate Davies, led by myself and the lovely Sabs. We are largely doing thing via email, but there will be a few blog posts along the way so you can keep up with our progress should you desire.

owlsAfter a bit of Ravelry research I decided to modify this pattern slightly to make a cardigan. As far as I can tell this basically means that rather than knitting in the round, I will not join the stitches and knit back and forth instead. The reasoning behind this decision is that I tend to wear chunky cardigans more than chunky jumpers, and I really want to get a lot of wear out of this garment.

The first two steps of any knitting project are arguabley the most important: choosing your yarn and knitting a swatch. You may remember a few weeks ago I frogged my St James jumper with the plan to repurpose the yarn for this project. Well, I should have read the pattern first. The owls pattern calls for chunky yarn, not aran/worsted weight yarn which is slightly thinner. You can sometimes get away with using a different sized knitting needles to get the correct guage, but it does explicitly state that this is not recommended for this pattern as the all important owls loose their definition. I would have known this, of course, had I read the pattern before blindly frogging my St James. The lesson here is READ THE PATTERN! It is a good idea to know what weight of yarn you are looking for before you start the hunt, and it’s also helpful to have a look on Ravelry and see what yarns others have used for the same project. Oh well. All is not lost as it has been brought to my attention that the miette cardigan calls for worsted weight yarn. I think I may have just lined up my next knitting project…


Anyway. Back to the owls. With my original plan out the window I had to go on the hunt for some new yarn. I chose Cascade Eco+ in Pumpkin Spice, purchased from The Knitting Shop.  I think this particular colourway is currently out of stock, but it is a lovely orangey-brown and the yarn is just so super soft – I love it.

Yarn purchased, the next step is to knit a swatch. I’m as lazy as the next person and if I can get away with skipping a step I generally do. However, even I am resigned to the fact that knitting a swatch is the boring but necessary bit. The pattern will call for a certain gauge, which is basically the number of stitches and rows there are in a certain size segment (or swatch) of knitting. Often this is a 4 inches/10cm square. For some patterns, such as a scarf, gauge is not important, however for a jumper or cardigan which is knit to a certain size, if the gauge is even slightly out you may find that you end up with a jumper that is too small, which would be heart-breaking after all that work! The owls pattern suggests using chunky wool and states that on 6.5mm needles there should be 13 stitches and 20 rows to 4 inches in stocking stitch. You may find that your swatch measures slightly differently, which could be due to the yarn or your knitting style – everyone knits slightly differently and you may knit slightly tight or loose. To resolve this, you can go up or down a needle size to get the correct gauge. You can see my swatch below – this photo is also a pretty accurate representation of the colour of my yarn. Gorgeous.


Swatch done it’s time to get knitting for real (always the best bit). If you would like to knit along, it’s not too late to join in! Below is a rough schedule. Each each stage has either one or two weeks allowed for it. The pattern is nicely split into numbered steps and I have indicted which steps are included in each stage. Timings are quite generous but hopefully this allows for a lot of flexibility and if you have a busy week or two hopefully there will be plenty of time to catch up.

  • By 17th March – Swatch and get everything ready
  • 17th March – Cast on and begin body (step 1)
  • 24th March – Waist increases/decreases (steps 2 & 3)
  • 31st March – Side increases, knit to underarm, divide (steps 4, 5 & 6)
  • 14th April – Sleeves (step 7)
  • 28th April – Knit the owls! (step 8)
  • 12th May – Decreases, neckline, cast off (steps 9, 10 & 11)
  • 19th May – Finish and block (step 12)

By happy co-incidence the knitalong will finish the week of my birthday. This gives me an extra incentive to finish on time – who doesn’t want to wear owls on their birthday?!

Kat xx

8 thoughts on “Owls knitalong: Choosing yarn and knitting a swatch

  1. Sabs

    Oops the rest of it won’t post! I meant to say I won’t be able to swatch until the weekend when the yarn arrives :( but the nice lady did give me free p&p for the delay!

  2. Charlotte

    Better late than never, can I jump on the bandwagon & join you? I’ve wasn’t sure whether to go for it as I’m VERY new to knitting but I love those owl & might as well give it as go! It will be good motivation keeping up with you:)

  3. Pingback: Me-Made-May ’14: The halfway point | Lady Stitcher

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