Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sounds of Life Cardigan

Let me introduce Sounds of Life, a new cardigan pattern with a great relaxed fit, generous pockets, and a standup collar. I chose a very special yarn for this one and I'd love to share my discovery with you!

I discovered Cestari Traditional 2 Ply while I was visiting Tolt last year. It was a yarn I’d never noticed before, though it isn’t new. When I picked it up I was immediately intrigued by its unique feel - soft and buttery, but very woolly and rustic at the same time. I could feel and smell the lanolin still in it and once I cast on, I was delighted to discover the occasional bit of straw as I worked. It wasn’t constant or anything, but each little speck was a sweet reminder of the life the sheep who had grown that wool might have lived. In researching Cestari further, I found a delightful sentiment on their website about this very experience. Company owner, Francis Chester was quoted as saying, “If you put his yarn to your ears, you can almost hear the sounds of life within it.” I couldn’t resist naming the sweater Sounds of Life after that wonderful quote.

I had been throwing around the idea of a good, solid workhorse of a cardigan, something versatile and wearable with a stand-up collar and functional pockets - the perfect PNW sweater, in other words - and when I discovered this yarn, the idea solidified.

I was originally a bit skeptical about the marled colors, even though I was also really drawn to them. I worried that the finished fabric would end up muddy or ugly. I was so wrong about that, though. The fabric is tweedy and interesting and beautiful in all the best ways. Several of my testers used Cestari for their sweaters too, a couple of them in the black/white marled colorway, and I’m now a complete convert to marled yarn. I even got myself another sweater’s worth of the marled black/light gray the last time I was at Tolt - stay tuned for more on that!

I've worn the sample quite a lot - it was hard for me to put it in the mail and let the folks at Tolt borrow it! At first glance, this sweater might seem somewhat plain, but here are a few of the special details that I really love:

Rolled edgings bordering the ribbing gives a relaxed exposed-seams look while staying nice and neat

Subtle waist shaping, carefully-designed set-in sleeves, and short row shoulder shaping makes a great fit. The intended fit is generous enough to wear over your wool base layer or plaid button-up, while keeping a flattering look. I made mine (the 34 in/86.5 cm size) with three inches of positive ease, and I recommend choosing a size that’s about 2-4 in/ 5-10 cm larger than your bust circumference.

The pockets! The openings are angled to make them particularly useful, both for hand-warming and keeping things in, and the size is generous. These pockets are definitely not just for decoration!

The stand-up collar adds extra versatility - if you need a bit of extra warmth, button it up all the way, or fold it down if you’re warming up a bit. Working the cardigan in a fairly stiff yarn like the Cestari Traditional 2-ply in the sample or Istex Lettelopi is most likely to give you that stand-up collar look. A softer yarn can be a wonderful choice, but be aware that your collar might lay a bit more flatly on your neck if you pick something with more drape.

Construction: Get the best of both the seamed and seamless worlds! The body is worked in one piece seamlessly with the shoulders joined with 3-needle bind-off, and the sleeves are worked in the round to the sleeve caps. Then the caps are worked back and forth in rows and then they’re sewn in using Mattress stitch. The beauty of this construction is that it minimizes seams where they’re less necessary for resisting stretching - along the sides of the body and insides of the sleeves - and puts seams where they’re most helpful for keeping your sweater in shape for years to come - at the armholes and shoulders.

The gauge - I worked this sweater at 16 sts/ 24 rows = 4 in/10 cm, making the whole thing a really quick knit

If you haven’t tried Cestari and you’re into rustic wools, I really recommend giving it a shot. It’s really affordable too - just nine or ten dollars for a 170 yd skein! But just in case you can’t get your hands on Cestari or want to go stash diving, some other yarns I recommend are:

Because the gauge is 16 sts = 4 in/10 cm, be sure to get a yarn that’s a heavy worsted or aran weight. Lighter worsted weight yarns like Brooklyn Tweed Shelter could work, but are more likely to pill and stretch at such a loose gauge. Be sure to swatch with your desired yarn choice (and block your swatch!) to check that you’re happy with the fabric you get at that gauge.

The sample is in the mail winging its way to Tolt Yarn and Wool right now, so you'll be able to see it and try it on there soon, and Tolt carries Cestari, so you can pick up yarn for your project while you're there. You'll also be able to get the printed pattern at Tolt soon, or ask your local yarn shop to order it from my distributor, Stitch Sprouts. You can also buy it as a pdf download on Ravelry and on my website

If you like my designs and enjoy getting pretty knitting pictures in your inbox, subscribe to my weekly email newsletter! Happy knitting!

Sizes and Finished Measurements 
Bust Circumference: 34 (38, 42, 46, 50, 54, 58) in/86.5 (96.5, 106.5, 117, 127, 137, 147.5) cm

Intended to be worn with +2-4 in/5-10 cm of ease at bust for standard fit; shown in size 34 in/86.5 cm with +3 in/7.5 cm of ease on model.

970 (1096, 1214, 1333, 1451, 1570, 1688) yd/887 (1002, 1110, 1219, 1327, 1436, 1544) m heavy worsted weight yarn

Shown in Cestari Traditional Wool 2 Ply 
Color: Light Gray/Medium Gray Marled; 6 (7, 8, 8, 9, 10, 10) skeins

Blocked Gauge 
Gauge measurement should be taken after blocking. 
16 sts/24 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Stockinette stitch using Needle B or Needle D (suggested size US #8/5 mm)

Needles & Notions 
Needle Sizes are recommendations only. Always use needle size necessary to obtain gauge.

32 in/80 cm circular needles: 
Needle A: US #6/4 mm 
Needle B: US #8/5 mm 

Set double pointed needles, long circular for magic loop method, or two circular needles (preferred small-circumference circular knitting method) 
Needle C: US #6/4 mm needle 
Needle D: US #8/5 mm needle

stitch markers 
tapestry needle 
five .75 in/2 cm buttons 
needle and thread


working in the round, increasing and decreasing, picking up stitches, seaming, including setting in sleeve caps

Sounds of Life pattern pdf download 


  1. What exactly is the Small circumference circular knitting method

    1. Hi Elizabeth! Small-circumference circular knitting is what you're doing when you knit socks, sleeves, mittens, or anything smaller than 16" that's worked in the round. Most circular needles have a minimum length of 16", so they won't work for a pice that has a circumference smaller than that. Instead of just using the usual circular needle, knitters can choose to work with a set of double pointed needles, a long circular for magic loop method, or two circular needles. Most knitters have a strong preference as to which method they like, and it doesn't make any difference to the finished project, so I let knitters choose whichever method they prefer.

  2. This is such a cute cardigan! So comfy and cozy.


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