Making the Niamh crochet sweater

I saw the pattern for the Niamh crochet sweater by Marie Wallin in those inbetweener days that stretch from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day. And, as it was 2020, they stretched out more than usual.

One of my goals for 2021 is to learn new skills in crochet and knitting and to make things to wear, rather than blankets, cushions and accessories. The Niamh sweater, with its subtle heathery colour blocking, looked like a perfect project to start the year.

The Niamh crochet sweater is mainly crochet, but the pattern adds a knitted cuff for the neckband, wrist cuffs and hem at the bottom of the sweater. This provides the stretchiness that is so difficult to obtain with crochet, particularly when working bottom up. Starting the neck of a crochet sweater with a rib worked sideways, crocheting a UK dc (US sc) into the back loops of the row before looks like a rib and stretches well too, but its difficult to add at the end. Another option is to use front post and back post stitches, and I kept an open mind about how I was going to finish the sweater until I had managed to create the main body and sleeves.

The yarn used in the pattern is Rowan Felted Tweed, which comes in lots of lovely subtle and heathery colours. I do have a few balls of it, but only in two colours and not enough to make the sweater, so I decided to use the Corriepol DK yarn that I sell in my Etsy shop.

It comes in 9 colours but I am currently waiting for some samples to arrive for new colours for 2021, so I’ll be talking about that in one of my spring vlogs on YouTube.

I’ve made quite a few things from this yarn, including a knitted sweater – the Worsted Boxy by Joji Locatelli. For this I used four three colours (Kingfisher, Shadow and Shale) and made up my own sequence of stripes. You can find out more about it in Episode 93 of my podcast, linked below.

I’ve also made a Sea Breeze crochet scarf using Iris, Lilac and Shadow

And a lacy crochet bag designed by the lovely Emma Escott, which I made in Pine Needles for the blog tour to celebrate the launch of her new book, Romantic Crochet.

For the Niamh crochet sweater I chose five colours. Lichen, Pine needles, Shadow, Pumpkin Spice and Merlot (shown below in that order with the turquoise Kingfisher.

Sweater quantity soft wool

Corriepol DK is a pure wool, non-superwash yarn that is a base of Corriedale and Polwarth wool, with some grey fleece. It is then commercially dyed in a range of colours that I helped to develop, giving each of the colourways the same subtle heathery quality. The gentle dyeing process is done in large batches, so using the same colour from a dye batch means you don’t have to alternate skeins when working a single colour project.

Gauge and tension in crochet sweaters

Gauge and tension are the thorns in the side of knitters and crocheters, particularly when making garments. The trauma of ‘getting gauge’ can be real…

I knew that the Rowan yarn used in the original Niamh crochet sweater was quite a thin yarn, almost a sports weight. Corriepol DK is plump and a true DK, so I knew I would need to play around with the numbers to get a sweater that fitted. Luckily, I have a large supply of the Corriepol DK yarn, so running out wasn’t a problem with this project. I just wanted a sweater that had quite a bit of positive ease to be comfortable, but not too much so it was shapeless and baggy.

Like everyone else in the known universe, I also hate swatching and rarely never do it. But I heard a great tip when watching a knitting podcast recently – Ina of Ina Knits said that she starts the sleeve of a sweater when that is an option, and measures her gauge on that. Sleeves are the smallest part of a garment, and if the gauge is wrong, its not much of a problem to rip it out and start again.

So I started the Niamh crochet sweater with the sleeve. The pattern directs you to knit the cuff first, but I decided to not waste the time doing that for the gauge experiment. Instead I started with a chainless crochet foundation using UK dc stitches (US sc). I used the 3mm hook recommended, which is quite small for a DK yarn, but it meant that I couldn’t go down even more to reach the required tension. I would need to alter the number of stitch repeats instead.

I measured it around my wrist as it grew and found that if I followed the number of stitches for the smallest size, I would actually end up with a sleeve for the XL size, which is what I wanted.

I progressed up the first sleeve and everything went really well. The pattern is easy, just a two row repeat, and perfect TV watching or audiobook listening crochet.

I did the second sleeve and then worked on the front and back of the sweater, also starting with a chainless UK dc foundation. As the body is larger than the sleeve, obviously, the different in gauge between the yarn I was using and the one used in the pattern sample was accentuated, so I ended up reducing the number of stitch repeats across each row, even down from the smallest size. This was easy to do, as the front and back have a boxy design with only a tiny bit of shaping right up at the neck.

Everything was very fast to work, even with the 3mm hook. And I did work out why such a small hook was used. The side which has the ‘wrong side’ of the UK trebles used in the main pattern is actually the outward facing side, and using a small hook makes the stitches so much neater at the back. Result!

Finishing the neckband, cuffs and hem of the crochet sweater

The back, front and left and right sleeves are seamed together, which I managed quite easily. I found sewing crochet pieces together much easier than sewing knitted pieces!

And when I tried it on, I was very pleased with the fit. The sleeves were the perfect length and were not rolling up at all, and felt really comfortable, so I didn’t want to change them too much. I did a simple round of UK dc stitches, then a round of crab stitch, which is UK dc stitches worked from left to right. Its called reverse single crochet in US crochet terms.

I later went back and added three rounds of surface slip stitch crochet in three colours to balance out what I did at the hem.

As you can see from the photos above, I added a ribbed hem using crochet rather than knitting using front post UK trebles (front post US dc) with five rounds in Pine Needles, one round in Pumpkin Spice, one round in Lichen and, finally, one round in Merlot.

It produced a really thick, sturdy ribbed hem that looked like I had done some fancy colour work, rather than just stripes.

So what about the neckband?

As you can see in Podcast 112 part 1, I originally did the knitted ribbed neckband in just one colour, Merlot.

I was pleased enough about how it looked but I made the classic novice knitter’s mistake and cast off just a bit too tightly. So it really ripped my ears off when I tried it on. I tried to ‘fix’ it by making a small steek but chose the front by accident, rather than the back or the side, which would have been a better option. Two side steaks could have worked!

But it was a disaster so I decided to avoid having to wear the sweater back to front for the rest of its life and redo the neckband. I was so pleased with the ribbed hem that I decided to make the entire sweater a crochet one. After a round of UK dc stitches, I then worked the same front post and back post UK treble ribbing as on the hem, adding stripes of colour again.

And then, it was done! And I certainly did have a happy face:

xxx Kathryn xxx