In Which I Keep Striking Out Whilst Looking for Knitting Project Ideas

A few months ago, my dear Mumzie gifted me with 8 gorgeous hanks of Black Water Abbey yarn in luscious wine color. It turned out to be the wrong color for her, but she was convinced it would be perfect for me. Zippity-do-dah, I totally agree.

Here’s the yarn in a knitted sample on the Black Water Abbey Web site. Really makes those stitches pop!

The challenge has been finding the right project to do the yarn justice. I keep striking out.

I’m kind of fussy. This yarn loves cables. It practically begs me to tie it up in celtic knots. The problem is that I don’t much care for most of the Aran sweater patterns out there. They’re boxy and heavy in a way that I know would also make me look boxy and heavy. I’m not a willow wand. With such a dense fabric, I need a pattern with some interesting geometry to it. Something with enough structure to tame that yarn into a flattering shape. I refuse to spend months on a sweater, only to wind up looking like someone who belongs on What Not To Wear.

Sorry Stacy and Clinton. Stay on your side of the TV.

I’m on a mission to find the perfect pattern for this yarn. I was very excited by my first sweater candidate: Mishke

Mishke by Julie Weisenberger, as seen on Ravelry.
This is so freaking stylish, I can’t stand it.

I love the shape of this garment and the kind of cables they used. I’m convinced that I could wear it and look stylish, not schlumpy. The original pattern was done with Madelinetosh DK, but I found an alternative version on Ravelry that had been knitted in my yarn! 

Mishke, knitted in Black Water Abbey worsted weight. As seen on Ravelry. This version was knitted by WoolinHand.

I was very excited by this pattern and wanted to cast on right away, but one of the saner angels of my nature fluttered up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. “Hadn’t you better do a little more research first?” she asked, with an overly patient look on her face.


So I did a little more research. I looked up other patterns that had been knitted with this yarn. And I sent a note to WoolinHand at Ravelry, who knitted this Black Water Abbey version of Mishke to see if she had any recommendations for me. What a gem, she responded right away. But what she had to say put a pin in my Mishke fantasy balloon.

Hi! I got your email about the Mishke, and I do have some recommendations. Have you ever worked with the BWA yarn before? It’s a little more harsh to work with than other worsted yarns and doesn’t have much stretch to it. However, it holds a cable well, has beautiful colors, and softens up after washing. People have very strong opinions about this yarn. I made this sweater as a model for Black Water Abbey, and I love the yarn, but don’t think it’s right for this pattern. It was hard to get gauge and needed a lot of blocking to get it right, and then I still think the pattern needs a softer yarn. I don’t want to discourage you from trying any yarn you wish, but that is just my professional opinion.

If a very knowledgeable designer thinks that this pattern is not right  for this yarn, that’s a good reason to move on.  

I began looking for other patterns knitted with this yarn on Ravelry. Sadly, most of them looked depressingly boxy and boring. Although this sweater vest caught my eye. I’m not a vest person, but this is cute. What I like about it is that it’s fitted.

ERiKU’s Irish Grey Sea Vest by Marilyn King, as seen on Ravelry.

So the Odyssey continued.

I looked through the patterns available in some recent Aran knitting books, including:

Carol Feller almost sold me on knitting this neat looking zip up jacket from Contemporary Irish Knits, but I got scared off by the zipper. I’ve never done one before. The cables are scary enough on their own.

Killorglin by Carol Feller, as seen on Ravelry and in Contemporary Irish Knits. I want to be on vacation in Ireland, wearing that jacket.

So I did some more looking.

My current front-runner is this tunic-style sweater called Irish Coffee by Thea Colman.

Irish Coffee by Thea Colman, as seen on Ravelry

The original was knitted in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter worsted. I love the short sleeves and the cute neck shaping. With this yarn, I’ll definitely need to layer it over a long-sleeve shirt.

I haven’t cast on yet. The angel on my shoulder is still saying I should do a little more research to make sure this yarn is right for this project.

So what do you think? Have you ever knitted with Black Water Abbey yarn? What sort of pattern would you recommend?


  1. The yarn is gorgeous! And Irish Coffee looks wonderful. But I’m inclined to say if the knitting angel on your shoulder tells you to keep looking, you should listen to her. You gut hasn’t fallen in love and yarn that lovely needs a pattern you love. The fact that it’s gifted yarn means there’s no guilt in letting it simmer in the stash for a while either…

      • I’ve knit this one in a slightly too soft and thin yarn – it doesn’t like that. Definitely needs more standing, so the BWA sounds perfect for it. I’m just not sure you’ll be able to get the gauge with a worsted weight…

      • Might need to go down a needle size or two. Between that and the cables the coat might end up a bit on the stiff side. I learned that lesson knitting Rocky Coast #1.

  2. I’ve been on a bit of a cable bent myself lately and have one pattern that I’m gagging to knit – very similar to that lovely Mishke, I’m not willow slender but I think this will look ok on me. I’m thinking about yarn for it at the moment. Have you also looked at Lisa Lloyd’s patterns? There are some in there that I absolutely adore –

  3. I like the Irish Coffee pattern, but if it doesn’t sing to you, don’t commit yourself to so many hours with it. It’s actually not that hard to add waist shaping to a boxy pattern – particularly if you find one with stockinette at the sides. Things knit at a looser, drapier gauge can also reduce the boxy effect, even with heavier yarns.

  4. I have found that some of the Norwegian yarns and Gansey yarns are “harder and stiffer” than what I’m used to. Have you looked at Garns for some patterns that use this type of yarn? Just a thought.

    • Too bad I think it’s probably not the best choice. The designer who knitted the sample for Black Water Abbey thought the yarn wasn’t quite right. I still love the pattern though. Definitely favorited.

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