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Lopi 1: 4 January 2015

L150104a OK, well, I guess this one isn’t going to detain us long…

First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a happy New Year, and a belated welcome to 2015. I hope you had a happy Christmas, that Santa was generous, and that any oranges in the bottom of your stockings were chocolate.

My cold pretty much wiped me out over the festive season, so that knitting was just about all I was up for. As a result I got rather a lot done; a staggering amount, in fact, since I only cast on the first row on Christmas Eve.

L150104bNow, if you remember, I said I was going to take a short break from ganseys to try something different. But why a Lopi pullover? Well, as I said last year, I’ve been thinking for some time of learning how to knit more than one colour, and one day would like to try my hand at Fair isle (ganseys’ technicolour brethren). But I’ve always liked the look of Scandinavian jumpers.

The turning point came a few months back when Margaret knitted me an Icelandic pullover in Lopi wool based on a design I’d seen online. This was a revelation: I’d no idea they were so warm, and soft.

You see, I’ve always associated “proper” wool with being a bit, well, scratchy. But the Lopi yarn, which consists of two strands loosely entwined like a drawing of the double spiral of DNA, is hardly spun at all, and feels almost as soft as cotton wool. (I like to think of the finished jumper as hunting down your favourite childhood teddy bear, killing him and wearing his skin.)

It’s also knit on big, chunky needles—6 mm, as opposed to the 2.25 mm I’m used to. So, as many of you pointed out, and as I’ve just discovered, it really doesn’t take a lot of time to knit compared to a gansey.

Well—put all this together, since the principle of knitting with more than one colour at a time is the same as Fair Isle, and it seemed like a perfect learning opportunity. I got a kit from the good people at Shop Icelandic for Christmas, which came with a pattern, needles and yarn, and got stuck in.

L150104cFor those of you not familiar with how this sort of jumper is constructed, this is what I’ve learned. You start at the bottom, and knit the body as a tube, just like you do with a gansey. But when you reach the armpits, you set the body aside. You then cast on the first sleeve, starting with the cuff, and knit the sleeve up as another tube, increasing as you go; then you set that aside and do the same for the other sleeve. (This was a bit disconcerting, reminding me of Frankenstein’s laboratory with cloned body parts draped over the back of the sofa.)

L150104dThen you knit the truncated body and sleeves together by just knitting a new row in the round, and knitting over the sleeves when you come to them, and so attaching them in the process. (You leave a few stitches from both the sleeves and the body in the armpits on holders, where a gusset would be on a gansey, so you can join them together later.) You then keep knitting up the yoke, body and shoulders together, to the neck.

It’s been a huge amount of fun. (You must remember, this is the first time I’ve ever knit anything other than ganseys, and the first time I’ve followed a printed pattern.) I don’t think I’ll quite finish it this week—alas, I have to go back to work—but I won’t be far short. I plan to knit another couple of Lopi jumpers in the course of this year, but as promised my next project will be a gansey, based on a Wick pattern.

Finally this week, I’ve been reading children’s books, as I often do when I’m feeling poorly. This time it’s been Tove Jansson’s marvellous Moomin stories, an integral part of my childhood, and is a third reason to be grateful to Finland (along with the music of Jean Sibelius and of course our very own Judit).

In one exchange, Jansson perfectly anticipates the lot of the blogger. Moomintroll is explaining to the Snork Maiden how his father spends his time:

“Mostly he writes in a book called “Memoirs”. It’s all about what he has done in his life, and as soon as he does something else he writes that down too.”
“Then surely he hasn’t got time to do very much?” said the Snork maiden.
“Oh, well,’ said Moomintroll. “He makes sure of doing things now and again, even if it’s only to give himself something to write about.”

12 comments to Lopi 1: 4 January 2015

  • annie

    Do keep doing things now and again. Better: a lot.

    • Gordon

      Hi Annie, and thank you – I’ve always been aware there’s this whole world of new things to try out there, but then there are so many gansey patterns still to try! But, as Obi-wan Kenobi might say, if he was a master of two-colour knitting, instead of a Jedi and master of the Force, I’ve taken my first step into a wider world…

  • Gail Donkin

    WOW! I’ve done a top down but never a bottom up; I’ll have to give this a try. I like the pattern and colors.

    • Gordon

      G’day Gail – I can recommend this technique, and the yarn is so easy to work with. I found the early stages of the cuffs a bit awkward at first as you’re knitting 30-odd stitches on circular needles in the round—it’s a tight fit, so that I felt like someone making balloon animals rather than a relaxed knitter! But after a while the increases make it all so much easier. As for the colour, what can I say? It’s grey…

  • Jane

    Very, very nice, lovely colours, lovely yarn and of course, lovely knitting. With your experience of ganseys and 2.25 mm needles, I did not think the Icelandic jumper would detain you too long! But what an agreeable change. I too am very fond of that moment when body and sleeves come together for the top piece! Such good fun. Variety is important too.

    Germs still galloping through the house, and much of Christmas has passed in a haze. Jolly cold still here, but the wild creatures are doing all right. There has been a certain amount of local excitement, a large ship transporting expensive cars has listed en route out of Southampton port and been beached on a huge sand bar in front of the Isle of Wight. Oh the things that happen at sea.

    • Gordon

      Hi Jane,

      I’ve found it all a bit like eating prawn crackers—satisfying at first, but ultimately it leaves you in need of more solid fare! But it’s been a fascinating experience, and one I’m keen to repeat.

      We’ve been watching the pictures of the beached transporter—very alarming. We’ve had our own cargo ship disaster up here with the ship that sunk off John O’Groats, tragically it appears with the loss of all hands. It really does remind you that the sea isn’t safe—and these were enormous cargo vessels—I think sometimes of the brave souls who put to sea in undecked fishing boats, taking their lives in their hands.

      Hope your germs pass soon. Mine have waited till it was time to go back to work before departing, the little swine!

  • Marilyn

    Hi Gordon, isn’t it fun. I knit a lopi sweater in college and got an incomplete that quarter as it was much more fun to knit than study. (I couldn’t figure out how to do both.) I am a huge fan of Icelandic wool, esp. the lace weight that isn’t spun at all.
    So yes, massive progress on this one- they’ll become like little snacks that you have between the heavy meals of ganseys.
    I hope you are feeling better just in time to return to work!

    • Gordon

      Hello again Marilyn,

      I think a snack is a perfect way to describe this sort of project. It doesn’t feel as complete as a gansey, but I’ve had a blast knitting it, and will want to indulge between meals often from now on, I think! So I plan to alternate Lopis with ganseys till I’ve mastered them (and if I’m honest, I’m still not quite there yet, I think).

      I think I did so much intense gansey knitting last year—deliberately, to get a certain number of projects done—I needed a break. But it’s a good sign that I’m already thinking about the next gansey, and I’ve still another week or more of this one to go. But going back to the 2.25mm needles will be a shock to the system, I can tell you…

  • Sharon

    It’s nice to have a quick & easy project every now & then!! You made a nice job of it too. I like Lopi & tend to spin my own yarn very lightly as well because it makes soft, warm sweaters that are light as down. But the wind does blow through them when it’s -10 outside so a gansey has it’s place. What you really need in your climate is a nice soft Cowichan sweater. Spun softly like Lopi only twice as thick & knit bottom up on large – maybe 9mm needles. With or without a hood & zipper. Then you’ll be warm in ANY weather. Get well soon Gordon – did you change your toothbrush??? Sometimes people forget & keep reinfecting themselves.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon,

      Now those Cowichan jumpers look the business, I must say. I wasn’t familiar with them, so looked on Wikipedia, and was delighted to find they were influenced, first by ganseys, then by Fair Isle sweaters. With that sort of pedigree they must be all right!

      I don’t know that I’d wear the Lopi jumper in a strong wind, but then I do have an authentic old policeman’s woollen cape, which would probably act as a wind screen!

      Oh, and I take your point about toothbrushes. Maybe I should stop sharing mine with homeless people after all…

      Gordon

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Lopi looks a treat. I just finished a gansey scarf that had stalled for years in favour of learning to do docks and lace. I think I might try a nephew sized gansey to get in the swing for something more ambitious later…

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Try SOCKS not docks! Sorry for the Dr. Seuss rhyming mishap…

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