FO – Orkney Cardigan

March 9th, 2016

Orkney Cardigan

My first FO (finished object) post and, although I have a few to catch up on, there is no finer object to begin with than my Orkney cardigan. We’ve reached high peaks together and then slipped dramatically downwards into a deep ravine. Typically, I couldn’t begin my pursuit of knitting greatness with a simple sweater, no. I had to attempt Fair Isle knitting and shaping all in one project all the while still figuring out how to hold the needles comfortably. I’m still fairly new to knitting, but having (successfully!) completed this project, I feel as though I am no longer a true novice.


DESIGNER: Marie Wallin

WHERE: Rowan Magazine 52

SIZE: Large. I read so many accounts that criticised the sizing for coming up REALLY small, so I opted for safety and knit a large. I wish I’d gone for a medium as fudging occurred. More details later.

YARN: I used Rowan Felted Tweed as specified in the pattern. I love this yarn! I changed out the main colour (157 – Camel) for 177 – Clay as I found the camel to be too camel-y. It seemed to blur the lines between the other colours too much and felt too slushy. The Clay worked so beautifully as a substitute.

MODIFICATIONS: So, as if this wasn’t enough of a challenge for someone who prior to this had only knit a few pairs of simple mittens and wrist-warmers, I decided to steek it and work it in the round (full disclosure: I did knit the back and one sleeve, in their entirety, flat, before deciding my technique wasn’t working – puckers and tight floats – and went for a total restart). Following a lot of research (links below) I opted for a 9 stitch (cautious!) steek. The overall maths look something like this:

71 front stitches + 138 back stitches + 71 front stitches + 9 steek stitches = cast on 289 stitches for the ribbing. Increase by one stitch prior to starting pattern.

I split the pieces, fearfully, when the shoulder and armhole shaping happened. It all worked out ok with a little patience. I would definitely recommend tackling patterns like this in the round, the knitting is so much quicker. It’s not all about the speed though, Fair Isle knitting just flows better when you don’t have to purl every other row. Ugh! Purling in Fair Isle should be avoided. Always.

Orkney Cardigan Fair Isle Marie Wallin

I did chart everything out in a squared notebook to make sure the decreases didn’t go awry. It also helped me to work out what was actually happening as the shaping occurred.

All of the above did not change the fact that a large was too large for me. So, before I embarked on such exciting things as setting in a sleeve, I stitched in two side seams to improve the fit. Seems to have worked. It’s probably sacrilegious for the experienced, but I wasn’t prepared to start over for a third time.

I differed from the pattern on the button bands as it didn’t like the look of the integrated buttons, it seemed to distract the eye from the pattern. Instead, I knit mine in shade 159 – Carbon and much prefer the simplicity of this.

COMPLETION: The ends. This cardigan is a story of ends. Weaving them in took longer than the actual knitting, or at least it felt like it. So relieved that’s over. I might need to research methods of catching the ends as you knit. There must be a better way. Other than that, the button bands, neckband and setting the sleeves wasn’t too arduous and not as scary as I thought!

Orkney Cardigan

VERDICT: I do love it and couldn’t feel more proud of my progress as a knitter. I might build up the courage to knit it again one day in a more muted and natural palette. That would look so lovely.

LINKS: The following provided invaluable help and advice in my darkest hours. There’s nothing like knowing you’re not alone at two in the morning, bleary eyed and ready to fling the whole thing out the window.

Here’s the image that left me obsessed with the idea of knitting this cardigan in the first place. I love how it’s paired with a simple grey tunic. I have a lot of those and loved the idea of something colourful to pair with them.



  1. I have been obsessed by the pictures of the Orkney cardigan for some time. I too know that purling was definitely out of the question but although fudging is my usual mode of anything I didn’t know how to make the armholes if you did everything else in the round. I had seen someone steek those too but how have you split yours. I am not clever enough to work out how you do it, sorry. Please help!

    1. Hi Carol,

      My skills aren’t quite up to steeking across after the splits. I know it’s possible, but I just didn’t feel confident enough to give it a go. What the front button band steek does give you is the option to work back and forth in two parts instead of three after the split. That’s how I worked it…purling Fair Isle isn’t exactly the dream, but the remaining sections are at least quick and always decreasing. I also think that being forced to slow my work rate after speeding through the rest of the body ensured that I made fewer mistakes than I probably would have done otherwise.

      I charted the whole lot out before I started knitting and clung to my notebook for dear life. I find I still need to write things out really clearly sometimes and can’t rely entirely on my interpretation of knitterly abbreviations under stress!

      I didn’t find those few rows of purling to be too terrible and there’s no perceivable different in tension (phew!)

      If you’d like me to try and explain in more detail, probably accompanied by photos of the charts I made, drop me an email at kit [at] folklore-blog [dot] com and I’ll do my best not to ramble confusedly!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *