Part I: The Fireman Sweater

Well, I am bitten by Fair Isle and color patterns in a big way…. so much that I was up WAY past bedtime last night (erh this morning) poring over Sheila McGregor’s The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting to find designs.

Let me back up…these last few days have been consumed with designing a sweater for my nephew Walter (the Village Sister’s first born).  His birthday was yesterday but we are celebrating with a little party next Saturday with a visit from the FIRE ENGINE from the village – they will come to the house and let the children climb on the truck and they get hats and little kits with firemen stuff. 

Of course at 3 (!) he is obsessed with Trucks and Fire Engines and Airplanes and WORKING on his Tool Bench and in his “work site” (the side of the driveway).  Having only sisters, I am intrigued and fascinated by all his activities.   (He has a book called 100 TRUCKS – which kills my sister and me – whoever knew?)

Anyway, I have wanted to design a truck/fire engine something sweater for awhile – and going to Meg’s Camp this summer plus re reading Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books these past months has given me a lot of information and the courage to fail.    And I needed it this week! 


So I ordered Lion Brand wool ease yarn (Village Sister has specifically requested machine washable yarn with a new born on board now too).  And then swatched and then started to fool around with a design of a fire engine.  Originally I was going to just put it on the bottom border and the sleeves…. but welll…. it all got out of hand VERY soon!

[Note I am basing my sweater design on the Scandinavian Sweater design in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s THE OPINIONATED KNITTER and creating my own color patterns .

I started with a ladder motif and then the fire engine and then the ladder and then I went back to the “drawing board” and started doodling around and designed a W (for his first name) and then a Bell and then a flame (for fire) and … well then I realized I needed some help and went searching my Knitting Library – and there was that LOVELY McGregor book (The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting) which I had bought many years ago in hard back, before I could ever hold two colors in two hands, because it seemed valuable and was OOP and … well, I was in a collecting phase then.  [Note its now in paperback by Dover)

So after a while (hours?) going thru each page of the designs (you could really spend weeks on this book!) I found a few that I liked:

– a curly wavy design to represent Water

– a better looking Flame to represent Fire

– a much better looking initial W for his name  [NB on Saturday, decided to not use this so that the sweater can be passed down]

So I am adding these to my original Fire Engine and Bell and Ladder motifs.

And then I spent a bit of time (who’s counting at ? o’clock in the morning?) rearranging the patterns to make a nice vertical arrangement.  (I am using Excel BTW).

THIS is SO addictive!  More fun than.. well, so much that I forgot to eat dinner last night!

Then on to KNITTING:

Here is the First Version:

  IMG_1933  IMG_1935

(I have altered this pattern a bit more)

Early this morning, I ripped back to the bottom ladder motif and then did the new first pattern (Water) and a ladder motif and then to bed.

However, when I got up this morning, I needed to check my row gauge to figure out how many repeats I could fit in (according to the sequence I had come up with) and then saw that my STITCH gauge had shrunk – I had originally knit 4 st/inch but with this Second Version I was getting FIVE sts/inch. 

Ok after a deep breath and a cup of freshly brewed tea, I ripped out the Second Version and recalculated for a body of 23” + 2” ease = 25”  Actually its not too bad as I really didn’t like the 16” needles i was using – not sharp enough for that yarn and I have some Addis that will work better in the next size.

Now of course I am thinking I need a few extra colors – I was going to do the sweater in only red and the background in the blue (its Denim blue) but… well, I am thinking I need a paler blue for the water motif and another color – gold? for the bell and… the flame red and gold? and … hmm. Where is the closest Joann?

This is the closest I have ever gotten to “drawing” and I see that is a major part of the attraction of Fair Isle – interpreting nature and other objects into patterns in the yarn to paint the sweater.   Very rewarding.  I am already thinking of another sweater based on a set of operas (THE RING) that are my most favorite in the world.  Hmmm, that one will take a while to stew.

ok, so now I am truly bitten.

And now onward to the Third Version… and maybe someday I can grow up to do the Russian Prime!

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1 Response to Part I: The Fireman Sweater

  1. Megan says:

    After seeing your comment on our blog I had to come & see what you were working on too. I love that you are creating your own fair isle motifs. I am way too addicted to patterns myself. The fireman sweater looks great!
    PS I love librarians – they helped shape my world when I was young!


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