Hillhead Slipover

Hillhead Slipover

This is the Hillhead slipover from the book “The Art of Fair Isle Knitting” by Ann Feitelson. I started this on Valentines Day and finished on Easter. I was a bit dismayed that it took so long to knit a *sleeveless* garment. My digital camera died the next day so I had to wait to post these photos.

It is done in one piece, circularly knit with steeks. It was knit on 3.5 mm needles (recipe calls for 3.25 mm but that wouldn’t give me gauge (32 stitches/10 cm). Here’s the problem: I got gauge for the width but not the length. It is 3” too long! This is the first time in my brief 4 year knitting life that I’ve not been able to get gauge for both width and length. The fit issue is really from the shoulders to the bottom of the armholes. Had I known I was having this problem, I would have cut open both steeks at the same time and then frogged back. I have found that the gauge for the unwashed/unblocked fabric is different from the washed/blocked fabric (stranded swatches can be unreliable, too). I can’t explain it but I guess it may be that I knit a bit looser when stranding because of the worry about smocking. I’m always attentive to the width (or should I say “girth”?). Now, if I could only grow a bit taller…. Actually, even with the extra length, it still is a good fit.

The book calls for Jamieson & Smith Shetland knitting wool. J&S have discontinued a large number of colours including some of the colours used in this pattern. I contacted them and their substitutions were unsatisfactory; that, coupled with their continued atrocious customer service, led me to shop elsewhere. I contacted Anne at sheeweknits.com in Canada. She carries the Jamieson knitting wools and did a very nice colour substitution for the entire garment. This was the first time I had used the Jamieson line and I found it to be the same as the J&S. I certainly liked the customer service I received from Anne and I will definitely buy from her again.

I was surprised that the finished garment doesn’t look a lot like the picture in the book. I’m not certain why except for perhaps the lighting in the book’s picture which makes it look lighter.

The colourway was a challenge to work with. The colours for the pattern were the dark colours and the lighter colours were the background. The problem I had was with the dark colours: black, very dark navy, dark navy, medium navy – what a challenge for my aging eyesight! Also, there isn’t much discernable shading with all those dark colours. I’m not sure it was worth all the trouble. I had one 4-round trip to the frog pond because I’d used the wrong dark shade.

The pattern repeat itself was easy: 32 stitches for 28 rows. The challenge was the frequent colour changes: the colours change 32 times over 28 rows! That really slowed me down as there were very few times that the unused strands could be carried until used again. All ends were woven in as I added and ended them so minimal darning when completed. In order to do that quickly, I would hold the 2 active strands in my right hand and the new/ending strand in my left. I’m glad I learned to knit with both strands in one hand!

I blocked this on my new woolly horse which was recommended by Albert. I can’t give an opinion on how well it works since there are no sleeves in this garment; I’ll save comment until my next jumper.

The basque and bands are corrugated ribbing. Although they look great, there is no elasticity in them which I miss. Anther downside to corrugated rib is the bind-off. Unless I did a row in all one colour and then the bind-off row, the edge is all bound-off in knit instead of a method with a nicer appearance. This garment has a deep basque. I was pleased with how the colours in the V-neck turned out at its point.

My biggest challenge was trying to keep the floats even and not too saggy. I have no smocking in the front and the back looks pretty good. I am still focusing on improving my floats. I’ve included a photo of the inside of the back. I know that even now as I’m learning stranded knitting, I like to see how others carry their floats and books never show the inside.

I’ve cast-on for the next jumper and this time I’m going to try a new way of holding the strands to see if I can get an even nicer finished garment.

Image icon Hillhead 2.JPG171.75 KB
Image icon Hillhead 3.JPG82.21 KB


crmartin's picture

Really beautiful! The inside looks almost as good as the outside. Fantastic job.



Asplund's picture

A work of art!


Jesse: The color substitutions are excellent! I think you're right about the lighting in the Feitelson book -- however yours is smashing! Well done, as always!

Well done again, Jesse. Another fabulous piece of work. I think I, too, would have had problems with all the dark shades.

Britisher's picture

Congratulations on such a fine looking garment. I've been reading about Fair Isle knitting myself recently, but don't think I'm ready for it. So well done, I'm envious :-)

QueerJoe's picture

Truly beautiful...nice work.

A couple of comments:

1. Based on your pictures...shouldn't it be called Hillheadless Slipover?
2. The colors are perfect and so is your stranding...the Woolie Horse helped a lot or not much with evening that out?
3. The length looks perfect too...but if your really wanted to shorten it, you could always unravel a repeat section in the middle of the body and graft it together...unfortunately none of the rows in the pattern repeat are single color only, which would mean you'd have to graft in multiple colors. I did that on one of my Fair Isle jumpers when I found a mistake. It was quite an exciting fix for me.

Have you ever done any of Ron Schweitzer's designs in Fair Isle? They're also very nice.

MMario's picture

there are so many tempting examples of colourwork here at MWK - and luckily - you guys are all good enough to intimidate me; because I don't need another passion.
MMario - ambiguity is cultivated, it doesn't happen in a vacuum!

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

Asbjörn's picture

This is a very handsome pullover, I'm especially fascinated with the striped neckline; very smart.



Kerry's picture

Your Fair Isle looks great, and the length looks perfect. On myself I don't like jumpers that sit above or on the belt line.

albert's picture

Super, Jesse. The dark colors were well worth the effort! Regarding the yarn, are these colors solid or do they have any heathering in them?

OzarkMtMan's picture

Well, I am wowed, and I agree with Albert. The dark colors were well worth the effort.
By the way, I've read your entire blog. I find it astonishing that you are doing such nice fair isle work so soon after you began persuing that.
Your book reviews inspired me to buy a few that you have recommended. I still have a few more of those that are on my 'must get' list. With those in hand I hope to be on my own fair isle adventures, and I hope that you will continue to review more books in the future.

You let go of it, it let go of you.

Velcro Confucious

ronhuber's picture

Jesse, you did a wonderful job. I, too, like the length on you. You are lucky you were getting gauge. The last attempt I made my guauge was off and I abandoned the whole project. Your stranding is also beautifully done. Isn't Shetland Wool wonderful? As always, a gorgeous piece of art.