Orcas Island Broken Rib Sweater

My job is very taxing, so I’ve probably got only one big project in me every year. In 2014 it was my fitted Einstein coat. In 2013 it was this VERY warm sweater. So warm Nick wears only in place of a coat on cold wintry days—something we don’t get a lot of in the Puget Sound.

Nick looking sunny at sunrise in his sweater
Nick looking sunny at sunrise in his sweater

The shop where I bought this yarn is Warm Valley Orchard on Orcas Island. We often pass by it on the way to and from the ferry and see the very sheep who grew the wool that was spun into the luscious bulky, undyed yarn that later became this sweater. In order to buy wool, you have to go to the island—they don’t ship (at this writing). What I found most charming was the color of the yarn was the sheep’s name. The yarn has all the natural oils and even had a slightly sheepy odor when knitted.

The owners of Warm Valley Orchard run a sustainable, organic business. Whether you want fruits and nuts, meats and sausage or wool (fiber, yarn or knitted garments), this small, unobtrusive shop carries it all. I’m sure once we move to the island full time, we’ll be regular customers.

Nick taking a last look at West Beach before returning to the mainland
Nick taking a last look at West Beach before returning to the mainland

The first thing I had to do was find a stitch pattern that Nick liked. This is much more challenging than you might think. It took weeks of showing him patterns in books and magazines, knitting swatches with the wool with different patterns and sized needles. The guy is particular! He settled on broken rib, which is not only easy, it created a “masculine” looking fabric. I chose the sweater pattern, wanting something not too complex—so the yarn could ‘speak’ for itself. After I got my gauge right where I wanted it, I used Knitting Fools’s Set-in Sleeve Pullover to generate the pattern—just fill in the blanks! If only it were that easy!

I knit a hat from the leftover yarn in the same pattern as the sweater
I knit a hat from the leftover yarn in the same pattern as the sweater

I’m not sure if I knit it looser than the swatch, but the body was a bit bigger than hoped for when I followed the pattern. A large was more like an extra-large. Also, the sleeves were a bit shorter and wider than expected. The left the body alone, with the weight, it seemed like loose was better than snug.

I tore out the sleeves (twice) until I figured out the right number to cast on to create a tighter cuff and followed the directions to increase to the number the pattern recommends for the neck join. They are a bit long, but he’d rather roll them over than pull them down, so it all worked out.

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