Ginger Made: Hestapeysa (Sweater with Horses)

Guys! Look at my ridiculous sweater!!!!!

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

It’s huge and puffy, it’s totally shapeless, fits kinda weird and is overall pretty ridiculous, but I love it! But wait, let me give you the back story!

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

This sweater’s story starts back in July, when Man Friend and I spent a week in Iceland. You guys. Iceland. It’s amazing- absolutely beautiful, unique, and just… amazing. All the people we met were warm and kind, and to top it all off, they wore incredible hand-knitted sweaters! I was sorely tempted to buy a sweater at the Handknitting Association of Iceland, and while the price was great for something handmade (about 115USD with the exchange rate while we were there), it was just a bit more than I wanted to spend. SO, I decided to take a stab at knitting one myself, even though I hadn’t been knitting much at the time and had never tried colorwork. Now, the one major downside of visiting Iceland is that it’s EXPENSIVE (to Americans, anyway… maybe costs don’t seem as high tof European visitors). Food, lodging, clothing, everything was really costly… except for yarn! I purchased the yarn and two patterns for about 30USD… cheaper than I could possibly source 100% wool yarn anywhere in the States! You can also find knitted items and yarn for sale everywhere- gift shops, drugstores, grocery stores! Crazy!

There were quite a few patterns to choose from, but I knew I wanted this one: Hestapeysa (sweater with horses). It’s available as a free download, in English, if you want one of your own! Dudes, I was one of those little kids obsessed with horses for as long as I can remember. I actually got a pony when I was maybe 7 (long story short, my dad found an ad in the paper for a $75 pony… the only catch was that it had never been touched by a human hand!) and the highlight of my childhood was pretending like I was winning the Kentucky Derby or riding for the Pony Express. So when we spent a morning riding horseback in the Icelandic hills and valleys, I was on cloud nine! I wanted to make a horse sweater to commemorate what was, honestly, one of the happiest days of my life!

Fun fact: when the folks at the horse farm found out I’d grown up riding a pony, they got really excited to find me a horse that would be “really fun”. I’m missing the fear normal people have around large animals, but even I got nervous when they told me that the horse’s name, Rody, was an old Viking word that meant “blood smear”. They insisted that the name referred to his color rather than any murderous tendencies, but still! Rody was a bit crazy, but awesome, and we had a great time together- he was a lot like a NYC driver in that he loved tailgating and wanted to pass every other horse in order to go faster!

OK, OK, I could go on about horses for hours, but I’ll get back to the sweater! The yarn is Ístex LΓ©tt-Lopi, which is aran weight, so it knits up pretty quickly. I knew I wanted to use kinda natural colors for the sweater, so I chose acorn heather and light beige heather. But I liked the idea of using an unnatural color (for horses), so I picked blue for them. The blue horses really make me smile! The yarn is really warm and is a bit itchy, so I’ll always wear this with something underneath it. There’s just one women’s size, meant to be about 43″ at the chest, but my gauge was a bit tighter, and I calculated that I would end up with about 40″, giving me 6″ of ease, which seemed right (you can see my Ravelry project here, if you like those sort of details).

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

I had no idea how to get started with stranded knitting, so I reached out to Sarah from Knit York City, one of the most skilled knitters that I know. She pointed me in the direction of this post from Ysolda Teague explaining color dominance. I was still confused about how to hold yarn when you have more than one color, but I found this totally helpful post from Tasha at By Gum By Golly and it gave me the confidence to dive in. I decided to hold one color in each hand, knitting continental (like I usually do) with the left-hand yarn and English-style with the right. It was a little tricky at first, but got easier quickly. This Knitty post by Theresa Vinson Stenerson really helped me sort out the floats. I definitely didn’t keep my tension even throughout the yoke- I was worried after I’d knit the horses that they were too tight, so I really loosened up my floats above them and those stitches look a bit wonky and loose. But oh well! I’ll have a better idea next time!

I started knitting this in October and was pretty slow. I picked it back up over New Year’s, joined the sleeves to the body mid-month, and then sped through the colorwork in a week. It’s just so fun to see the pattern develop- I stayed up past my bedtime nearly every night because I just wanted to do a few more rows! Colorwork looks really complicated, but once you’ve figured out how to hold the yarn, it’s easy to keep track of where you are in the chart and you’re just knitting stockinette in the round, so it’s really pretty quick compared to anything cabled.

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

The sweater is a little crazy, and dude, it is WARM. My face and hands were cold when I was taking these photos, but I was otherwise completely comfortable (and it was about 20F!). If you’re not familiar with this kind of knitting, the color you’re not knitting with gets carried behind your stitches, so the yoke is a double thickness of yarn. Also, the sweater is so bulky that I’m wearing a flannel buttondown underneath it in these photos and you can’t even tell! Oh, I should probably mention the hat, which is also handmade. This was a quick knit with a single skein of Cascade Eco Cloud I’ve had in my stash for a long time- I thought the color would go nicely with my furry Gerard. You guys, Eco Cloud is SO soft and nice! It’s a chainette yarn made of merino & alpaca, so it looks really cool knit up and is really springy and squishy. Plus, the colorway is named “Bunny”! I used another free download, the Mock Rib Watch Cap. It’s very, very easy and would be a great first hat project!

Hestapeysa | Ginger Makes

OK, tell me- do you knit? What’s on your needles? Any favorite patterns or recent projects? Were you a horse-crazy kid like me? Would you get on a horse named “Bloodsmear”?

215 responses

  1. Superb knitting. The sweater is stunning. I hate looping wool round the back, always too tight or too loose. Re Iceland, it seems expensive to us Brits too, I’ve even been told of people who took their own sandwiches from home when they went on a weekend break there! But that’s a bit extreme, and not so good for the Icelandic economy. Great to hear the wool is so cheap. Reason enough for a visit πŸ˜‰

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    • Thanks, Trish! It’s stressful doing the floats… like you said, it always feels too tight or too loose! Blocking helped, but it’s still not perfect. It’s too bad that Iceland isn’t more affordable since you guys are such a quick flight away!

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  2. Hahahahaha! BLOODSMEAR. Poor horse! I love horses too, and made friends with a horse and foal this past weekend whilst we were on a walk, but the mister was a bit leery of them, and gave them a wide berth, even when he saw how friendly they were! It’s a good job he didn’t meet with ol’ Bloodsmear!

    This jumper is AWESOME. It is pretty much my dream jumper, and I may have to creepily copy you and make one, especially now that I’ve conquered By Gum By Golly’s Victory pattern, and am now more comfortable with colourwork!

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    • Oh my gosh, try this pattern!!! It’s really quite simple and I bet you would look so cute in it! My fella is a nervous nelly around horses, too… funny how that works out! There is nothing cuter than a foal, all legs and whiskers!

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  3. I love your sweater! We live in the country and I wear yoked sweaters over my wool and flannels and under my snow bibs (fashion!) with no jacket because this type of sweater is so warm. Those horses! They are great. Great story from your vacation.

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    • I’m so jealous of country living! I miss farm life (I’m married to a city boy and can’t convince him to drop everything to run a small farm!). πŸ™‚ I really feel like I could ski all day in this without getting chilly!

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  4. I think it’s a really fun sweater! And wow, that’s crazy cheap yarn. I’m having one of those “I wish I could touch wool without dying of itchiness” moments. And I definitely went through the horse phase–I wasn’t able to ride much as a kid, but a couple of my favorite book series to read involved horses (The Black Stallion, one called the Saddle Club), and my favorite toys were My Little Pony. I actually hoarded my birthday money one year and took riding lessons the summer between my two years of grad school, because I’d always wanted to learn! It was really fun, and even though I didn’t have the funds or time to continue once the school year started again, I’m so glad I had that experience.

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  5. I love your horsey jumper!! It’s bloody brilliant!
    I’m knitting matchy matchy cardis for me and my 6 month old at the mo – matchy in the sense that it’s the same yarn not the same pattern…aiming to get them finished by the time we go skiing next month!

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  6. I LOVE THIS!!! I love the inspiration behind it, and I love the oversized, cozy fit. What an amazing keepsake for your time in Iceland! I’m so impressed with your color work too. I had no idea what goes into doing stranded knitting so I spent a nice amount of time in this post going through some of those links you mentioned, and WHOA! That shit looks HARD!! Two-handed knitting?? I’m super impressed. I’ve finally made it to the last sleeve of my Brooklyn Tweed Carpino sweater and holy hell… it is going so… slow… I’m going to think twice before making a sweater with lace weight yarn again! But now you got me scheming about some Icelandic inspired fair isles looks… There’s always something new to learn!

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    • Oh my, the Carpino pattern is so lovely! And I bet it will be way more wearable in your climate than this hot & heavy yarn! Honestly, you can totally handle fair isle. It’s a little awkward when you get started, but it gets easy quick and then you’re just going around and around and around in stockinette (but without the boredom of a completely plain sweater).

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  7. Love, love, love your sweater! You are so talented! My sister always had a horse growing up & as an adult in LA (until she moved to Wyoming!) & about a year ago she rescued an ex-thoroughbred racehorse that was literally on her way to slaughter! She’s such a good horse. Her great great (& great) grandparents are Secretariat & Man O’ War, one of the greatest thoroughbred racehorses of all time! Her horse only raced twice & came in second to last & last! But she loveeees to run! I knit a bit but nothing like what you do. My girlfriend & I took a knitting class b/c we used to travel to Europe all the time for our jobs & wanted something to do on the plane…it was close to 9/11 so then we couldn’t take our needles on. Right now I have a sort of neglected scarf on my needles that I need to finish before we go camping. Now I want to make an Icelandic sweater thank you very much!

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    • Oh wow! That is so cool! I REALLY wanted to be a jockey when I was a kid (I was very tiny and always the shortest in my class, so I figured that was the one profession where my size wouldn’t be a disadvantage!) so I read all about the great racehorses like Secretariat and Man O’War! How amazing that your sister’s horse is part of that bloodline, and even more amazing that she’s a rescue!

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    • It’s so, so beautiful! I visited Stockholm right after Iceland, and loved it so much I’m desperate to find a way to live there! Thank you so much for commenting- I’m glad I found your blog! I love your style so much!

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      • Thank you, you’re so kind!
        Stockholm is a very beautiful city, I like the closeness to the water and the colorful buildings. I would love to visit New York with all its amazing fabric and yarn shops πŸ™‚

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  8. Your sweater is amazing! The blue horses are so cute & I love the colors you chose. I think I would steer clear of bloodsmear, but what a great name! I’m in between knitting projects right now and I’m desperately trying to figure out what to make next! πŸ™‚

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  9. Omg, still laughing about “blood smear”. It sounds so menstrual! And this sweater is insanely awesome and I can’t BELIEVE you made it. I have tried and failed to be a knitter and I think it’s just not my thing. I never want to do it at the end of the day…. Let alone knit in a different style with two hands while holding a bunch of coloured threads. *shudder*

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  10. i love your sweater! must knit something similar one day πŸ™‚ i got really obsessed with knitting lately, and i’m actually knitting my first sweater now (nothing too complicated one, although i’m not following any pattern, so fingers crossed i don’t mess it up, as i’ve never made a sweater before)

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    • Ooh, I’m excited to see your sweater! I’m a seasonal knitter- I enjoy it during cold weather, but don’t really do it the rest of the year. There’s something so appealing about curling up with knitting during long winter nights!

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  11. This really came out fantastic, I love it!! Who doesn’t want a relaxed and cute handknit cardigan in winter? With blue horses no less?! I’m so glad my stranded tips helped you too. Your work really does look lovely. Now I want a horsey sweater!!

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  12. Awe, best sweater EVER!!! I am completely horse crazy and thoroughly enjoyed this post Sonja πŸ™‚ I’m on my way home from visiting my parents in S. Cali, and I rode a horse named Dash who has a bad reputation. My parents were being super cautious while letting me ride him, which was freaking me out a little, but he was well behaved for me and fun to ride. Your pony ride in Iceland looks totally awesome; I am green with envy πŸ˜‰ if your awesome horse sweater doesn’t inspire me to learn to knit, surely nothing ever will. I love it–greater color choices!

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    • You totally need this sweater!!! Riding horses in Iceland is nothing like the touristy horse rides in the states where they make you sign about 1000 waivers and then put you on some broken-down nag that moves about 2 mph. They just gave us our horses, asked if we knew how to get on, and let us go at it! I didn’t realize how much I’d missed riding! I’m glad you got to do it with your parents. πŸ™‚

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  13. Beautiful sweater! I just found your blog and you post about two of my favorite things, knitting and horses (not to mention another major love, sewing)! I think a riding stable that names one of their horses Blood Smear may need a little help with their marketing, lol.

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  14. This sweater is so awesome! As a non-knitter I cannot even wrap my head around how to achieve what you have done.
    Iceland is so beautiful. It’s like another planet compared to NYC. I’m so jealous of your horseback riding adventure.

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  15. OMG PONIES! This sweater is so amazing! I love the story behind it (the trip, the childhood) and the photos are great. I’ve wanted to knit a Lopi stranded sweater for a while but I think I’m waiting for the right yarn. Iceland is definitely on my travel bucket list so maybe one day I’ll be able to buy some at a grocery store there.

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  16. Wow, the sweater is super impressive!! Clothes with excellent stories are the best, I love how you tied in your whole Iceland experience with the piece. I’ve always wanted to try colorwork because there are so many gorgeous & fun patterns out there… so maybe those helpful links will give me the courage. πŸ™‚ The hat is awesome too, I really want to try that yarn!

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  17. What a fun story! I remember hearing about Iceland and its vast yarn shopping from Franklin at the Panopticon (http://the-panopticon.blogspot.com/2011/10/they-werent-kidding.html). You did a nice job with your stranded colorwork. That is a crazy-deep yoke you have there, does the whole sweater pull up when you lift your arms? It looks sort of like that in your last (exuberant!) photo. I have a yoked sweater that is awaiting surgery because my shoulder-to-armpit depth is way less than the pattern thinks it should be.

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      • There isn’t an easy fix, unfortunately. 😦 For my sweater (Tea Leaves, adult version, knit top down), I have to cut the yoke after the patterning, unravel about 1.5 inches, and graft it back together. But I’d already knitted on the button bands by the time I saw the problem, so there’s a lot of frogging involved (and hence it languishes in the fixit pile). Why I didn’t try it on while knitting the yoke is a mystery.

        For yours (knit bottom up?), you’d have to unravel the yoke and redesign it to get the decreases worked in fewer rounds from the armpit to the neck. It would involve math and recharting, not a trivial undertaking…

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  18. Very cute sweater. Love the blue horses. I learned to knit when I was younger and go back to it periodically, I made a great thick scarf a few years ago but then I went back to sewing so knitting has taken a back seat for the last few years.

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  19. I love the horses!!! Riding an Icelandic horse is so on my bucket list. I knit a sweater with Icelandic colorwork last winter, but it’s not as fun as this πŸ™‚ I’m currently working on the last piece of my Stonecutter sweater and my subsequent queue keeps changing, pretty much hourly. I just can’t make up my mind!!

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    • Oh man, I can’t wait to see your Stonecutter! I was torn between that and the Ondawa for my next sweater project, but I figured it would take me three years to finish Stonecutter! πŸ™‚

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  20. What a fantastic jumper! IT takes me right back to somewhere I’ve never been but feel I’ve visited. I got given two books set in Iceland for Christmas, Names for the Sea – Strangers in Iceland is about a British family who live in Iceland for a year, and it’s fascinating (although I reckon it tells you as much about her background as Iceland) and includes information about Icelandic yarn and knitting. And Butterflies in November, which is a bewitching book. I’ve now been lent a third book set in Iceland, Burial Rights, but apparently its a bit gruesome so I’m not sure I want to start it!

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  21. Amazing sweater. It looks so awesome and classic. The perfect winter sweater. I’ve heard more and more great things about Iceland and the ubiquitous yarn certainly adds to it’s allure. I have some yarn that I have earmarked for a colour work sweater but I haven’t committed to a pattern yet. I just finished a Chuck in the Untangling Knots Selfish Knitalong so maybe I’ll ride that momentum.
    I used to love horses as I grew up riding them at my uncle’s ranch. I found I did start to get the “trouble” horses though due to my experience and ended up getting kicked off by a horse named Tobasco. I’ve decided to enjoy horses from a distance after that injury. Still they are beautiful.

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  22. The sweater is fab – I am in awe of those knitted horses. I do knit but am not knitting at the moment. I am itching to make a cardigan though….I have some old Rowan pattern magazines to use. Blood Smear – what a viking name! I used to ride when I was little and now my 7 year old daughter rides! xx

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  23. What a great sweater! I love that it’s traditional but also the horses are ace. I’m not a fan of horses or ponies, I went pony trekking once years ago and found it quite scary! They are too unpredictable for my liking. Bloodsmear is an awesome name though πŸ™‚

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    • Yeah, it’s nice that it’s traditional or the horses would probably be too much of a joke. I don’t want to look like a giant toddler! Perhaps your next cat can be named Bloodsmear? πŸ˜‰

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  24. I am a very sloooow knitter. And crocheter. And, well, just about everything else that isn’t sewing. But I do love it! It’s so fun and relaxing. I think part of why I’m so slow is where I live… There are seriously like 2 days of the year I can actually wear a nice, warm, hand knit sweater, you know? Not very good for motivation. I love this, though!! I have soo been wanting to try color work. I should just be brave, right??

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  25. It’s so cool! The color work looks awesome, those horses are so great. I was completely obsessed with horses as a kid- the movie The Black Stallion came out and I was DONE. I had plastic horse models on a special shelf in my room and read every Black Stallion book (there were a lot!). We actually ended up with two horses and a pony, I was in heaven πŸ™‚ I have recently watched that movie again with my girls and it is still really good! I thought it would feel really dated but it doesn’t at all.

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    • Oh man, I looooooooooooved that movie and the books!!! I was totally convinced I could tame a wild stallion. πŸ™‚ I need to revisit the movie! Did you have those Breyer horses? I used to save up my birthday money for them. πŸ™‚

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      • Yes, they were the Breyer horses- I recently unearthed them from my parents’ garage and gave them to my sister-in-law…she always wanted them as a kid and never had any. I thought that was so sad! She was so happy to finally get them, haha πŸ™‚

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          • Hmmmmm…I can’t really think of anything- we didn’t have a lot of $$ growing up but I had horses, cabbage patch dolls, books…what more could a girl need? I did always wish for more clothes- I remember I would get $100 for school clothes for the year- I would go to Value Village (thrift store) and stock up on men’s pants and flannel shirts, ha…I graduated HS in 1992 when grunge was in full swing πŸ™‚

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  26. This looks awesome! I only crochet and sew but will have to think about knitting to be able to do something like this.

    Re: Iceland. I’m going there in about 6 weeks and was wondering if you have any cool suggestions for places/sites or even some fabric/yarn stores? I have a few geologic sites in mind, thingvellir, hot springs, geysers, etc, but would love to pick up some fabric while I’m there.

    Thanks!

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    • Yes!!! I found the yarn at the Icelandic Handknitting Association in Reykjavik… they have a huge selection of sweaters/yarn/patterns/accessories. I didn’t see any fabric when I was there, but their yarn is really nice. I also really loved the “Into the Volcano” trip, the Laxnes farm, and, of course, the Blue Lagoon. πŸ™‚ Oh, and the whale watching boat was so fun… we saw tons of dolphins and puffins and even a couple of whales! Our favorite meals were at the Icelandic Fish & Chips Co (seriously, so good), and Saegreiffin. Hope that helps!

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  27. I love your jumper and your wool purchase, I’m afraid the price of good quality yarn is the main reason I don’t knit/crochet as much as I’d like. Perhaps I’d better plan a trip to Iceland…

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  28. LOVE IT!!! Looks amazing on you. Great color choices. I didn’t know that you could knit too. I think you did an amazing job so congratulations! Love the whole back story as well.

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  29. that is fantastic. I am always in awe of anyone who can knit and something that complex, wow. I tried knitting and it was a disaster – so I’m sticking with sewing. By the way, if you like European destinations that are slightly offbeat and have great people, food, scenery (and lovely wools) you might try Ireland sometime. (been twice and I would go back tomorrow if given the opportunity)

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  30. I will be going to Paris later this spring, with a very brief layover in Reykjavik. I realized too late that I should have tried to stay over at least a day! Ah well, I would like to visit there for real someday. (And my husband just saw that some new Icelandic airline will be flying from Boston & DC to Reykjavik starting from $149 each way, so perhaps that will become more financially feasible.)

    This sweater is beautiful. I started knitting just over a year ago, and multi-color anything scares the heck out of me still. I haven’t tried it, but everything I have tried always seems much less difficult than I imagined it to be (knitting-wise). I am trying to convince myself that a fair isle project may be on the agenda this year (but more likely heading into next winter). . .

    I am currently on the home stretch of a merino/alpaca blend cabled cardigan. I am very excited for it, which meant the cables went faster than I had dreamed they could. (One of those knitting skills that sounded far more daunting in my head.)

    And I can relate about the . . . interesting horse experience. Any time I go riding they always give me THAT horse once they find out I have some riding experience (my grandpa was a rancher). I honestly prefer it that way. Those horses are always fun!

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    • Ooh, how fun! Are you in Boston? It’s a really quick flight from Boston and some of the Icelanders (?) mentioned that they fly to Boston to shop every now and again!

      I always tell non-knitters that it’s really not as hard as it looks. It’s totally true, right? Cables aren’t so bad at all, and I found colorwork to be easier than cables (it’s much easier to read a chart and nearly impossible to lose your place). Merino/alpaca sounds delicious! I bet you will love wearing it!!!

      I’m jealous that your grandpa was a rancher! That’s so cool!!!

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      • No, not in Boston. Out West, but sometimes one can fly cheaply across the country. . . I would think it would be more advantageous for Icelanders to fly to somewhere else in Europe for periodic shopping than Boston, but perhaps that explains this new airline’s genesis (meeting a need).
        Between your awesome sweater and your assurances that colorwork is easier than cables I may start thinking about it for real!

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  31. Hugely impressive! The horses look so damn cute. I wish you could buy yarn everywhere in Australia! The only colourwork I’ve attempted was knitting a Kombi bus for my beloved…. It’s pretty crap! Right now I’m knitting up a basic stripey Breton jumper and a cowl with a cool triangles pattern….

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  32. What a fantastic jumper!! You’ve nailed it! I love the design of the horses, trotting along the bodice.

    Bloodsmear isn’t doing himself any favours by staring down the camera all moody and homicidal like. But I’m sure he’s a sweetie.

    I spent my childhood writing “novels” about the adventures of two cats and illustrating them myself hahaha god they were awful.

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  33. FELLOW HORSE PERSON!!! oh my gosh, this is the sweater of my wildest dreams…i can’t believe i am only just seeing it now. so so so cool!! i want one!!!!!

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  34. My Mom has the cutest pony named Jasper but he’s also a rascal. Beautiful job on your sweater! I’m impressed you started it in the fall – I have a problem finishing projects longer than one or two skeins. The horses on your sweater are very cute and your pics (in Iceland and at home) are great!

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    • This is a record for me- the last sweater I made took me 2.5 years!! πŸ˜€ So don’t feel bad!

      Jasper is a cute name! Ponies really can be mischievous! They definitely like to be naughty!

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  35. I absolutely love it! When you mentioned you had started Ondawa, I thought, but what about the horses! Guess this is my answer! Yes, these sweaters can be a bit shapeless and itchy, but I’ve grown to adore them above almost any other sweater I’ve ever knit. Whenever someone asks me how I stand it, I say layering! I hope you got some use out of it last week in this bitter cold. I know I had my Lopi sweater on tap.

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