Tips and Tricks for Knitting a Leio (or any other sweater) in Linen!

Y'all... last year around this time I decided I needed a linen sweater in my wardrobe... I was just getting ready to release Leio (in both Lopi and Catena) and wished I had one in a warm weather fiber.

So, what did I do? I ordered yarn (9 skeins of Quince and Co. Kestrel in Porpoise and started swatching (more on that below).

Then winter came, and the last thing I wanted was a Linen sweater, the Lopi version was perfect, thank you very much!

But this spring I decided to get knitting... there was more swatching as I forgot what needle size I had used in the fall.
Note to self:
You always think you will remember, but you really should make a note on your Ravelry project page, like any other grown-up knitter would do!

And then I started to knit! The two halves of the sweater were perfect travel knitting for my trip to Scotland... whenever I was asked what I was knitting I would say, "oh, you know, just a Uterus" We would all crack up at the look of confusion on the innocent tour guide's face... there is nothing better than an inside joke, right?  (Those of you who have knit a Novus Sweater know what I mean about the Uterine phase.)

Then I came home and got super busy, but I got the front cable panel done on vacation in Greece, and then the side panels done during my garden tour with Jess in Ireland.

All that was left was the collar, which took me a whopping 3 tries to get right... the thing with linen is that it doesn't have a memory and the collar as written was making the neckline too wide and my wee shoulders kept escaping Flash Dance style, which doesn't match my 48-year-old aesthetic! Basically I just needed to pick up fewer sts, and add more short rows to fill in the neckline space. Here's an example of the first neckline... you can see how wide it is (sorry, it is a bad hotel room selfie!)

And now I have ended up with the most wearable summer sweater EVER! The hand and drape on my new baby are superb... the small struggles I had learning how to work with linen were totally worth it (and I get to share them with you, so there is that!)

So, I worked my swatch the same way I would for any other Novus Sweater... by casting on for the sleeve and working 6 inches of it. Then I wet my swatch and through it in the dryer (what?) with some towels and jeans until it was pretty much dry. Finally I hung it sideways with weights on it (this simulates the weight of your sweater hanging off your shoulders). Remember Novus sweaters are knit sideways, so you should be more concerned with getting accurate row gauge than stitch gauge! Linen needs to be softened and the act of throwing it wet into the dryer "beats" up the fibers and makes it STUNNING! If you could "feel" through the internet I would have you sample a swatch blocked and dried vs. just blocked, the difference is incredible.

The biggest thing I found was that the swatches I did that weren't correct couldn't really be used again as after they were dried the yarn didn't behave the same. For this reason it is KEY to make sure you purchase some extra yarn when working with linen!

Oh, and remember, if you write down what needle size you use on your sleeve swatch (either with knots in the tail, or in your notebook, or on Ravelry) then you won't need to swatch for your sweater twice.

These blog posts were helpful to me when I was learning about linen and swatching!
  • https://quinceandco.com/blogs/news/114693766-warming-up-to-linen
  • http://knitbot.com/blog/2013/5/22/finishing-with-linen
  • https://untangling-knots.com/2016/05/20/6-things-to-know-about-knitting-with-linen/

Weaving in Ends- In the beginning I was following Hannah's advice above about weaving in ends... but then I found this video about joining balls on tubular yarn (Kestral is a tubular linen tape) and began to do that... it is magical and works really well!

Have you knit with 100% linen before? If not, I think it might be time to try!