Improv Sweater. Week 1: Migrating Birds

Planning, and sometimes not planning…


I am usually a huge planner. I feel compelled to fill in details, to know what I’m doing, to not look like I’m lost even if I am. This is my raglan pullover for the Fringe and Friends KAL 2016, and this is not planned to the nth degree.

With this sweater, I wanted to create it organically, to put design into the very basics, but to simply feel the flow of the sweater, and adjust course accordingly. I have a basic work-through with some arithmetic, but I am otherwise keeping it simple and plotting the next few moves as I go along instead of having from beginning to end totally worked out.


I’m working in Ella Rae Lace Merino Worsted, in what should have been “grey”, in that it is the colourway “light grey”, but instead is some kind of taupe-pink-grey melange. At first I wasn’t sure I liked it, and didn’t send it back because I was living in Canada and I had ordered it from the US and didn’t want to pay another international postage fee. It’s been sitting in my stash, a point of confusion, for about three years. Something about this project made me pick it up, and look at it in ways that I hadn’t done before. I’m starting to really love it, and get very excited about getting to wear what comes from it. It’s beautifully soft, and I’m aiming to have a gentle combination of boat- and scoop-neck, as I have wide shoulders and fairly pronounced clavicles.


I have been reading a lot of Scandinavian design blogs. I like mid-century modern designs, brought up to 21st century functionality, and I wanted to project that current interest into the motifs on this sweater. The light colour and relative chunkiness and bounce of the yarn make stitches pop, so I knew I wanted a lot of texture. However, I have just finished a swathe of cabled projects, and wanted something different. There is something to be said for simplicity. I have been reading about gansey/guernsey sweaters for awhile now, and seeing Brooklyn Tweed’s Gansey book come out this year doubled down my belief that the gansey motif in purls and knits is probably one of the more elegant patterning methods in modern knitting. They are easy to execute (if you’re paying attention to what you’re doing, as in all things), and have a subtle yet dramatic effect that I absolutely love. Enter: the flying geese motif.

This motif is mostly found in the quilting world, as far as I can tell, and is usually only found in knits that comprise of colourwork. These sideways equilateral triangles in endless gridlock are also a common aspect of Scandinavian design — the obsession with geometric pattern. Executing the flying geese pattern in knit/purl on this raglan sweater was therefore a perfect marriage of texture, Scandinavian theme, and a nice nod to gansey history (though, of course, all over).


If I wake up early enough, I see a series of faint lines trail across the room which I find quite visually appealing.

I make a further nod to the gansey with the garter stitch rows at the top of the front of the yoke. These three rows in a sea of stockinette offer a sort of inverse to the traditional gansey, with plain bodies and patterned yokes, while still providing design interest. I take inspiration from these “stripes” of garter also from the shadows on my wall in my bedroom at home. If I wake up early enough, I see a series of faint lines trail across the room which I find quite visually appealing. This is a sweater based on threes, really: 3 garter rows, 3 inches of stockinette in front (7×3=21 rows), the motif on the back began as a repeat of 3 at the top, flying geese are in patterns of 12 which is divisible by three…

      I like that kind of harmony.

What’s in a name?

I’m calling this “Migrating Birds” for (surprise!) three reasons:

  1. The motif is called flying geese, and that seems like a no-brainer.
  2. While there might be a heatwave on in Seattle right now, fall is most definitely on its way. I’m really looking forward to wearing more autumnal clothes, including all of my sweaters that have been languishing in my closet for months! (I’ll be writing a post on how I’m going to pair my new Migrating Birds sweater probably early next week).
  3. I am only a recent migrant to the US; I’ve been coming to Seattle for ages, but I’m only officially a resident as of this year.

This project just feels right. I wasn’t sure I was going to bother to give this KAL a try, but it’s been so good for me, and cathartic. Just so much fun! I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes!

Find me elsewhere…

If you’re interested, you can check out little updates on my progress on my Instagram: ajamakesthings.

You can also find me on ravelry: palaeopath . I’m really horrible at keeping my ravelry updated, though.

Of course, you could also use the links at the top of the page to take you directly!


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