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4-Color Stranded Knitting? Sheesh! Maple Cardigan by Marie Wallin

Maple by Marie Wallin

Ok, let me explain why I'm rather tired after this epic knit! Colorwork knitting comes in many flavors:
  • Stripes – 1 color per row
  • Slip stitch colorwork (a.k.a. mosaic) – 1 color per row slipping a different color from a previous row
  • Stranded colorwork / Fair Isle – 2 colors per row carried across the row together (note that Fair Isle changes colors quickly so that no color locks are needed behind the work)
  • Intarsia – unlimited colors per row knit one at a time off of bobbins

Oh wait I forgot one:

  • Stranded colorwork on drugs!! – 3 or 4 colors per row carried across the row in unison
I love stranded colorwork. Knitting with two colors is totally doable by knitting continental with one color in the left hand, and knitting english style holding one color in the right hand. You can also just carry two colors in one hand and manage just fine. 

But you know how an amateur juggler starting with 2 balls is laughing and pandering to the crowd until someone throws three or four balls into the mix? And then they stop laughing and squint hard into the sun in concentration, so as not to embarrass themselves? That's stranded knitting with too many colors.

I introduce to you one of the prettiest yet most nerve-wracking patterns of all time, Maple by Marie Wallin ($7 / £4), made originally in Rowan Felted Tweed.

Maple by Marie Wallin

If you know Felted Tweed, you can see pretty quickly that I used a different yarn. I was fortunate enough to receive a sample skein set from the now sunsetted company Quartermoon Fiber Co., of a really unique yarn called Tekla. It is 65% merino, 25% hemp and 10% silk. It is a beautiful combo of warm and cool, with woody fibers that come out now and then to make the yarn feel really organic.

I was flipping through Rowan Magazine 50 with the original pattern and realized that my Tekla color palette was pretty close to the orginal! The two colors I was iffy about were the dark brown and the avocado green. I decided to stick to the palette but lighten the dark brown to light brown, lighten the khaki to creme, and ditch the avocado. Just those small changes seriously brightened the garment!

Now let's go back to my colorwork juggling act. If you look at each band closely, you will realize that there are at least three colors per row (four in that light brown band!). Furthermore, the colors are used so regularly across the row that the temptation is to try and carry every color along the row. This would be easier if the colors intertwined very often, say, every 3 to 5 stitches. But nope! Each band has loooooong swathes of one color, meaning that you would have to carry and lock all the other colors behind the work regularly as you go to avoid long floats. It is a TOTAL mind puzzle to get that to work out and you find yourself wishing you were an octopus.

But I cheated. Here is the back to demonstrate:

As you can see from where I'm pointing, I used intarsia for the third color and did not carry it across the entire row. Well, it wasn't pure intarsia – I like to call it "stranded intarsia", where you strand the bobbined yarn with the background colors just enough to make the color available for where you need it next.

 What a challenge. Obviously I was up to it, but starting the sleeves was stratospherically cathartic!

Well, until I had to weave in the ends, haha.

And before you wonder -- I couldn't carry the yarn up the sides because the color repeat was far too long and there were way too many colors to bring up. I tried it. It looked like a seam tumor!

The other thing that came from so much long stranding was "show through" to the front. You can especially see this with the pink color coming through the white band.

I did try to alternate where the locks were taking place while carrying the yarn, but coordinating that along with everything else was too much to ask. At first I was pissed off, but then I thought it kind of looked cool. It was basically the official stamp of "This is hard, but I did it, so there."

It took me over a year to make this, and I was sad when I always had to tell eager knitters that they had to find the elusive Rowan Magazine 50 to knit it. However, by some amazing luck, the pattern is now available on the Rowan website, and you can even buy the yarn for it there (using whatever colors you like). I tend to make projects with discontinued, impossible to find patterns, so it is wonderful to be able to share its availability with you. Please feel free to contact me by clicking the logo below if you have any questions about knitting this beauty.

See my Hempy Maple on Ravelry

Dayana Knits


  1. I really love the sweater but your commentary is fabulous! This is intriguing. Looking forward to trying this. I also like the colors you chose to brighten it. You are an artist in knitting! See you soon, at our knitting group and getting more information about intarsia knitting.

    1. Thank you my dear V! I'm happy you enjoy my commentary, that's my favorite part of blogging.

  2. Congratulations!! Your sweater looks amazing and I cannot believe the effort put into knitting it. Wowza! You are truly a master knitter!

    1. Rita, you are too kind! This was definitely an epic knit.

  3. Love this sweater, you did a great job and the discussion in your blog is fantastic. One of the things I love about color work knitting is that it is a bit like cross stitch, it really isn't meant to be viewed up close. Looks amazing!!

    1. Thank you so much, it's the discussion I enjoy the most! I appreciate your cross stitch comment and YOU ARE RIGHT 💪


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