13 June 2011
Materials: One Bohus Forest Darkness kit from Solsilke, in black (pattern and yarn included). Size 0 circular needles.
Time: Just under five months.
Cost: A gift!
Firstly, some historical preamble: bohus stickning comes from a Depression-era knitting cooperative established in Sweden to provide work for struggling women and their families. Many of the original sweaters are now collectors’ items, and — as is, happily, the case with many traditional / regional knitting styles — the patterns have been reproduced and are available to modern knitters.
These days, Bohus sweaters have a somewhat formidable reputation amongst knitters. The yokes are made up of subtly-changing colorwork that mixes knit and purl stitches for texture, and demand that you pay pretty close attention while working on them. On the other hand, the rest of the sweater is just working around and around and around on tiny, fuzzy dark yarn and tinier needles. So, I think that their reputation for difficulty comes from the attention required by the first 1/6, and the persistence required to complete the rest.
Consequently, I regard the completion of this garment in slightly under five months as nothing short of a minor triumph.
My parents — who are quietly supportive of my knitting habit, and the fact that my idea of an excellent Christmas present consists of yarn — enabled the purchase of a Bohus sweater kit from Solsilke. While I’m generally the queen of finding and substituting cheapo yarn, this is one instance where I’d really recommend going for one of the kits. For one thing, the yoke yarn is pre-dyed in all of the colors that you’ll need (many of which are very similar to each other) and accompanied by a color-coded chart; it’s also a fuzzy 50-50 wool-angora blend, which is what you want to properly blur the transitions of the yoke colors. Also, I think that if you’re going to spend months and months working laboriously on a sweater on tiny needles, you might as well buy the quality materials from the nice Swedish lady.
A few technical notes on construction: I ended up improvising the pattern for the body below the yoke, because my gauge was still slightly too loose on size 0 needles and I wasn’t willing to go down to a 00 or smaller (at least not for an entire sweater knit in black yarn!). I also wanted it to be a little more fitted than the smallest size of 39.5″ would allow. Lastly — and I definitely thank my past self for this — I figured that there would be absolutely no material or therapeutic benefit in spending hours post-knitting laboriously seaming up the arms and sides, so I wanted to convert the whole thing to being worked in the round.
So, I knit the colorwork portion of the yoke in the round (as called for in the pattern), and then simply continued the unpatterned part of the yoke in the round while trying it on my dressform periodically to see how it was fitting and where I was vis-à-vis the underarm. (I still worked the short rows called for by the pattern: this illustration is basically what I did.) Once I reached the underarm, I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations to figure out about how many stitches I’d need for the front, back and arms, put 12 or so stitches on scrap yarn for the underarms as well as the stitches for both arms, and continued the body in the round. The small gauge proved to be an asset when it came to fitting on the fly: because it progresses so slowly, I was able to knit half of the stitches onto another size 0 circular, then try it on my dummy and/or my self.
I also ended up doing 3/4 sleeves, because a) I like how they look, b) I push my sleeves up anyway, and c) because I didn’t need the encouragement to FINISH FASTER. And now: done!