knit | spin

Something I prepared earlier

August 10, 2016

Hello again.

I am still working towards recovery from this fatigue condition. Things are stable but life has had to be pared right back to basics. From this new beginning, I can very slowly build towards recovery. Everything takes so long now and I am still finding my voice and my sea legs, everything I felt I knew has shifted.

So I thought I would break the silence by sharing something I finished way back in April.


This is the Yoke of Endurance. The sweater is the culmination of my participation in the Shackleton Craft Along hosted by Sarah from Fiber Trek. This was a rather special craft along, taking place over eighteen months or so, mirroring the Ernest Shackleton expedition to Antarctica in 1914 on the ship, Endurance.

It was a rather ill-fated expedition. The Endurance was trapped in pack ice and crushed. The expedition of exploration and discovery became a rescue operation of many months for Shackleton, trying to get all the stranded crew back to safety. The wonderful thing is, nobody died, everyone came home.  The idea of using this expedition as the inspiration for a knitting and spinning adventure was really novel, it captivated me instantly.


We were encouraged to pick a project that really challenged us and to see it through to the end. I chose to spin up my remaining stashes of coloured fleece using woollen long draw, a new spinning technique for me. My journey began during Spinzilla in October last year and the following months I finished yarns in Finn, Romney and Polwarth. I discovered I loved the woollen long draw.

It felt like a magical spell when I drew the fibre backwards and watched twist transform wool into yarn without snarling or lumping.  It is certainly not brilliant woollen spun yarn by any means but it really pushed my spinning out of the comfortable.


I had finished the body and arms of my sweater and had just begun the yoke when I got that oh so pivotal chest infection that turned to pneumonia in April. The yoke was finished sitting up in bed between naps. I knew where I needed my decreasing rounds and I would just pick a pattern from Mary Jane Mucklestone’s book of Fair Isle Motifs and wing it. It all flowed and was a rather dreamy and wonderful experience. A few weeks later, I was too tired to even lift the needles and it is only now, five months later than I gather myself to link photographs and write stuff to share this one with you.


Yoke of Endurance is a bottom up, seamless sweater with waist and bust shaping at four points. The yarn a woollen 2ply sports weight knitted up on 3.75mm needles. The yoke patterning was placed low, just after joining arms and body together to cut horizontally across the bust line, minimising the opera-singer-chest-affect yokes can have on a full bust. I am very pleased with the way this worked. One set of short rows was added just prior to yoke patterning and the other set and the neckline. The main body is Polwarth, the white is Finn, the silver is Romney and the black is from an alpaca called Rosie.


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  1. Lovely to see you back with more! And what an appropriate, (and beautifully made) creation at this time in your life.
    And it is an extraordinary story how Shackleton saved the whole crew under impossible odds. 30 years ago I bought “Shackelton’s boat journey” for 10p second hand in a tiny old post office in Cornwall and found it an unputdownable read. The 3000km journey from Elephant island to South Georgia island in a tiny boat with minimal navigation equipment and then to traverse the island over massive, snow-covered peaks to seek help on the other side, is a gripping epic. And then to see the boat and Shackleton’s journal on display in Oxford was special. The photographer on the expedition, Frank Hurley, was an Australian.
    I enjoy how you knit/weave in stories from all over the world with your blog. Thank you.

    1. Dear Sally, Thank you so much for sharing a fuller account of the Endurance expedition. It really is an extraordinary adventure. I have seen Frank Hurley’s photographs and they are quite astounding. What a serendipitous find in a Cornwall bookshop!

  2. Awesome!!! This beautiful achievement draws me! Inspiring in its conception, execution and making. A stand alone special garment. I applaud you! The photography elevates the humble and
    Somehow returns the project back to the setting it came from. Nature transformed and in developed concept returned.
    Truly awesome!! X

    1. Dear Jill, I do love how you see things. I had not thought about the full cycle the image represents, but I see it now and I thank you for it. It seems like a good place to build from.

  3. Bravo Rebecca! I can only imagine what a challenge the last few months have been. Your jumper is just stunning! And your endurance through something unpleasant and completely out of your control will forever be knit together with this beautiful creation. That is amazing.

    I’m still slogging through my Shackleton project (while getting distracted by other spinning and knitting deadlines and projects). I can only hope it turns out as beautifully as yours. (Mine has a contrast bit at the yoke and I will certainly try your tip of placing it low on the bust to cut the visual space. I always struggle with things like that.)

    1. Thanks Becca, I am delighted to hear you are still pursuing your Shackleton project. You know how much I admire any spindle adventure. I look forward to catching up with your work in progress.

  4. Oh, such beautiful work Rebecca… I am once again in awe of your spinning and not just spinning but planning, knitting and completing something so very beautiful. The Shackleton KAL has tested you in surprising and unexpected ways and yet here you are today showing us your completed yoke sweater.

    Again I take my metaphorical hat off to you…. love from the West…. Lydia

    1. Dear Lydia, your love from the West is most welcome, I hope it brings the sun soon. Thank you for your kind words, yes, surprising and unexpected has been the order of the day!

  5. It must be a nice feeling to have used your own handpspun to make a garment that will endure. A very interesting story. Sorry to hear that things are progressing so slowly and best wishes for continuing recovery.

    1. Thank you Stephanie, yes, it is a good feeling to knit from you own handspun, a sort of wonderous feeling, a marvellous strange wonder that raw, lived in fleece from a living animal can be so transformed, so simply and be of such utility.

  6. Such a beautiful sweater and a great back story with it.! How did you enjoy spinning the Polwarth? And the Finn?

    Your perseverance and determination to recover from this horrible malady is an inspiration to all of us!!

    1. Dearest ElaineChicago, thank you for your encouraging words. I really enjoyed the Polwarth, it has very similar qualities to merino in terms of softness and handle but has none of difficulties in spinning that merino can have. It is quite greasy though, so needs to be thoroughly scoured. The Finn is just a delight, so soft but dense and durable. I would like to spin more Finn and explore the crossbreeds I have seen around recently.

  7. I love how you approach challenges, setting goals for yourself and pushing on past your comfort zone! Inspiring to read about, especially about your spinning endeavor with the long draw. That can be tough, well, it is for me, to get even, and your yarn looks wonderful. Lovely sweater and great photos!

    1. Thanks Judy, I do agree about the long draw being challenging. Certainly, this yarn for this sweater is quite uneven and the singles are somewhat over spun, but I learned so much about the hand movements and just how much twist is necessary. I would do a better job next time because I wouldn’t need to worry about the hand movements anymore, my hands know what to do now, I could just work on technique.

  8. My goodness but you look fabulous in that sweater! Shackleton has to be everyone’s inspiration when a task seems impossible. And you have persevered and will come through your illness in similar fashion I am sure.

    1. Well thank you Jane, I do hope I come through this period as smoothly as this garment developed. There are certainly fruitful metaphors of challenge and perseverance…so much more fun in a sweater project than in illness though!

  9. Your Shackleton is beautiful. I love the natural colors – so quiet and soothing. I hope it soothed you to knit this as you recovered (are recovering) from your illness.

    I will have to check that pattern out. My late Mum used to knit oodles of yoked jumpers, but I’ve avoided them for two reasons – I can never get row gauge with the same size needle with which I get stitch gauge, and yoked sweaters do have the “opera singer” effect. Plus, I have a lot of natural-colored and white fleece and roving to spin, or that I’ve spun (I like that you know the name of “your” black alpaca, by the way. I have Pearl, Olive, and Logan in my fleece tubs, along with an unnamed Corriedale/Teesdale cross lamb and a natural silver Coopworth ewe’s top.

    1. Thank you so much Helene! If you struggle with gauge then I think working up your own pattern from your own gauge is the way to go. Elizabeth Zimmerman has some excellent and inspiring directions for this in The Opinionated Knitter and Knitting Without Tears. I do agree, there is something rather special to know the name of a fibre animal. It helps to remind us of the life carried inside our work.

  10. Really good to see you up and about. That is a beautiful sweater and such a lovely idea to use up all those smaller lengths of handspun. Which basic sweater pattern did you use, or did you make it up yourself? Looking forward to hearing more from you as you get better.
    Cheers Suzette

    1. Dear Suzette, I do make up my own patterns from elements I like. This one has Elizabeth Zimmerman’s basic methodology of seamless yokes, with Meg Swansen’s 4 sets of yoke increases, Amy Herzog’s shaping methodology and Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Fair Isle motifs. I wing it a bit also!

  11. WOW, stunning work and I LOVE that you did this with your hand spinning. I have been listening to Sarah re her Shackleton. I feel it is so important to use our fleeces for lovely jumpers like this one. YEA for you!!

    1. Thank you Susan, It is lovely to be able to live with a fleece as a sweater after you have spun it. I have been surprised at how much pleasure and interest a natural colourwork yoke gave me. I would like to do more with natural colours.

  12. What a beautiful garment, wonderfully executed and designed. I am sorry that so much endurance is required from you at this point in your life. The unsettling of everything you’ve believed known is a huge threshold to cross. Sending you warm wishes for complete healing.

    1. Thank you Mary, I am very much in awe of your hand dyed colourwork sweater you just finished. I read every post. The light yarn for the main body really makes those colours sparkle. Thank you for your understanding and kind words. I do feel a little lost right now, but all things pass.

  13. Wow! I’m in awe. I really love the pattern, the nice open neck and the very attractive yoke. It all looks great in the natural colours you’ve chosen.

    You’re right, longdraw is magical! Very fast too.

    All of this has come together to make a really special garment. Very nicely worked throughout. Congratulations!!

    1. Thank you Shiela, I think you are right the speed is also very marked with the long draw. A proper worsted yarn feels achingly slow and constrained after spinning woollen. I have dreams of a massive woollen Faroese shawl in silver Gotland, perhaps then I would have my fill of that lovely long draw!

  14. Wow, Rebecca! Your spinning us beautiful, as is your sweater! What a great project. Lots of healing thoughts sent your way! It’s nice to have you back in blog land!


    1. Dear Wendy, thank you very much. It is lovely to be back. I think about this place often but it is still very tiring for me to get a post together. I can’t believe how I used to do it with such ease. I have to break everything into little tasks now and take it step by step…and not worry too much about my lack of words. If I keep showing up, perhaps they will return.

  15. Yay for blogging because it’s a platform to tell the story behind a creation. Looking at the pictures I see a amazing, intricate beautiful knitted and spun jumper, but then all the stories of different yarns being spun, and inspiration of Shackleton’s journey, and your own stories of endurance come forth in your words. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

    1. Thanks Rachael, I do agree that the great strength of blogs is the space to tell stories. Microblogging is fun, but it is just a quick glimpse. Craft blogging is fading medium I fear.

  16. Lovely to hear from you, Rebecca. The sweater is super. I never thought of mixing breeds and animals in the same garment. Duh. You are an inspiration in so many ways. Diana

    1. Thank you Diana! The breed mixing is really just my serendipitous response from a small stash but I quite enjoy mixing up the different qualities now.

    1. Thanks Sarah, the woollen spun is not wearing so well though in a high rotation sweater, its getting very pilly on the arms. I might try a worsted spin for the body and sleeves next time.

  17. Yes – I too think it’s an amazing achievement to finish a garment such as this – especially when you’ve been so poorly. Looks just gorgeous, and perfect on the sunny beach like that.

    1. Thanks kaydeerouge, it was all planned by the time I got sick, so all I had to do was follow through. I was just sick then not exhausted! I miss that word ‘poorly’, it is from my childhood.

  18. This is delightful. Just lovely. I admire the way it sits low on your shoulders like a shawl – very settled and flattering. I can’t imagine knitting it in full health so kudos for pulling off the yoke when you were sick.
    Re: adventures in frosty climates, you must read the story of Australia’s great Douglas Mawson, “Alone on the Ice”. It is gripping and every bit as inspiring as Shackleton’s story.

    1. Thanks Frith, I remember when i was working at our state museum for a while, we had an exhibition of Antarctic exploration that featured much of the equipment and clothing Mawson used. I must check out that read, thanks!

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