A single plate of pink brown unspun Nutiden yarn in the foreground on a dark brown table. In the background, a blurred image showcases the work-in-progress of a handknit Soft Spoken Sweater.

The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Unspun Yarn, Part 3: Pattern Recommendations

If you've read my previous blog posts in this series - 'The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Unspun Yarn, Part 1: An Introduction' and 'The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Unspun Yarn, Part 2: Working with Unspun Yarn' - you should now have a good understanding of what unspun yarn is. Hopefully, you also feel more prepared and motivated to incorporate it into your next knitting project.

In this third installment of the series, I aim to provide some guidance on choosing suitable projects for those who may be uncertain about getting started. Although I mention my own knitting pattern designs (since these are projects I personally have created and knit using unspun yarn, and which have been thoroughly and successfully tested by others), remember that the same principles can be applied to any knitting pattern of your choice. If you have a favourite designer whose pattern you'd like to adapt for unspun yarn, feel free to do so!

So let's dive in, and by the end of this post, hopefully, you'll find the inspiration you need for your next project.

Embarking on Your Unspun Yarn Journey: start simple - Lo·ki and Wayfarer 

Knitwear designer Lív Ulven wearing the handknit dark brown Wayfarer Raglan sweater made with unspun Nutiden yarn, against an alpine landscape with a backdrop of yellow grass and a treeline of pine trees.

As you embark on your journey with unspun yarn, consider my knitting patterns: the Lo·ki Raglan Sweater and the Wayfarer Raglan Sweater. These patterns were designed specifically for unspun yarn, utilizing simple and easily manageable techniques. They're suitable not only for those new to unspun yarn but also for novice knitters, mainly involving work in stockinette stitch. This starting phase lets you explore the yarn's unique texture and feel.

Both patterns, while enabling the soothing rhythm of the stockinette stitch, also ensure a good fit by incorporating German Short Rows to shape the shoulders and neck. Therefore, a bit of purling is required, albeit only for the ribbing sections and short rows.

Knitwear designer Lív Ulven in an oversized grey Lo·ki Raglan sweater, handknit with unspun Nutiden yarn, paired with a long black pleated skirt. She stands in a room against a white wall.

The Wayfarer Raglan is a contemporary, unisex raglan sweater, knitted from the top down in the round. In contrast, the Lo·ki Raglan is knitted from the bottom up. Your choice between them is a matter of personal preference and comfort. If you're knitting your first sweater, top-down knitting can be easier, providing a straightforward way to check and adjust the fit. However, bottom-up knitting has its unique advantages. I encourage you to experiment with both.

While a plethora of other patterns is available, starting with a simple stockinette design helps acclimate you to working with unspun yarn, and most importantly, allows you to truly savor the knitting process. As you complete your first garment and grow comfortable with unspun yarn, you'll find it easier to incorporate different techniques.

Ready for a challenge? Try colourwork.

Once you've familiarized yourself with working with unspun yarn and successfully completed your first garment (or, if you've skipped that step and don't really fancy knitting a basic sweater), consider a simple stranded colourwork project. Begin with something manageable, using only two colours worked at the same time, alternated frequently. Initially, it's best to steer clear of large and complex colourwork patterns that result in long floats as the yarn is carried across the back, or patterns that involve multiple colours simultaneously.

The Barren Land Sweater is a great starting point. Knitted from the top down, it features a straightforward two-colour stranded colourwork pattern, with each colour worked over 1-3 stitches at a time. The design includes invisible lifted increases cleverly placed on rows with a single colour only, as well as German short rows below the yoke, ensuring a good fit. Even though the original design is knit in two colours, you have the liberty to experiment with colour combinations by alternating the contrast colour on different colourwork portions. For inspiration, I highly recommend checking out Ravelry project pages and Instagram.

Image of knitwear designer Lív Ulven wearing a handknit stranded colorwork sweater called Barren Land. The sweater is made from unspun Nutiden yarn in a natural dark gray shade, featuring a light contrasting color. The landscape depicts a barren and foggy field.

If you're using the unspun Nutiden yarn from Höner och Eir - the yarn used for the Barren Land design - this is also an opportunity to explore how different blends and colourways behave, especially if you've managed to get your hands on some samples or single plates. With such a diverse array of options and combinations, you might find yourself wanting to knit more than one! Will you opt for a moody, classic design, or a vibrant one that showcases a spectrum of colours?

Love texture?

While it may initially seem intimidating to apply textured stitch patterns to unspun yarn, especially if you've just mastered working with a simple knit stitch without constant breakage, don't let this discourage you. Unspun yarn works beautifully with a wide array of textures - everything from cables to lace. But as with colourwork, you may want to start simple.

I highly recommend my Fisherman's Raglan Sweater, which features an engaging yet fun and relaxing stitch pattern that appears every second round and is worked only in front. It strikes a great balance between relaxing stockinette that allows you to get a feel for the yarn, and a brief departure that lets you experience something different through slightly more advanced knitting technique.

Image of knitwear designer Lív Ulven wearing a natural dark grey Fisherman's Raglan sweater with textured front, handknit in Manchelopi unspun yarn, standing on a stony beach. The backdrop showcases a foggy large body of water.

The Fisherman's Raglan was designed in collaboration with Wooldreamers, using the wonderful Manchelopi unspun yarn. It possesses that wonderful 'just one more row' quality, a surefire way to ensure your sweater will be completed in no time. Manchelopis, with their soft, spongy, and squishy unique texture, assures you an incredibly fun knit, resulting in a garment that's extremely lightweight yet perfectly warm.

While the pattern is worked from the bottom up, you begin working the stitch pattern on the body, so it's not a case of 'saving the best for last.' All the details harmoniously come together, with the bottom ribbing seamlessly flowing into the braids and later into the neck ribbing. And, as always, German short rows are employed without disrupting the stitch pattern, ensuring a great fit at the neck and shoulders.

A close-up of the Tåkesti Shawl, knit in a medium brown Nutiden unspun yarn colorway, highlighting a textured stitch pattern with slipped and knit stitches. In the background, vibrant fall colors and trees add to the scenic view.

If you're not ready to commit to an entire garment for your initial exploration of unspun textures, I recommend a straightforward accessory such as a simple shawl in garter stitch or one with easy and memorable textured stitch patterns. Consider my large, cosy, rustic Tåkesti Shawl, which was also designed for unspun Nutiden yarn and features an engaging, memorable slip-stitch pattern.

The advantage here is that you don't need to stick to a strict gauge and can knit it as big or as small as you like, so your main focus can be solely on enjoying your yarn. I had the privilege of knitting and designing my shawl in 'Brunte', an older Nutiden colourway with such high lanolin content that it felt like knitting with built-in moisturizer - a truly remarkable sensory experience. If you can find a high lanolin yarn for this, I highly recommend it!

Image of knitwear designer Lív Ulven walking away, wearing a patterned dress and black boots. She holds the brown textured Tåkesti Shawl, handknit with unspun Nutiden yarn, on a small path in an autumnal forest adorned with vibrant fall colors.

The Best of Both Worlds: Combining Texture and Colourwork

If you're up for a slightly more significant challenge, or simply can't decide, why not combine both texture and colourwork? The Bjørk Raglan Sweater, designed using two strands of Nutiden yarn from Höner och Eir combined with two strands of Plötulopi from Ístex for contrast, serves as an excellent starting point. This design, knit top-down, features a simple and easy-to-master blend of stranded colourwork and slip-stitch techniques. The result is an incredibly cosy, warm, yet lightweight sweater that will keep you comfortable even through the harshest winters. Plus, it gives you the chance to play with colour by alternating shades throughout the rows or using one of the variegated Nutiden colourways, adding delightful visual interest to your garment.

The Bjørk Raglan Sweater, displayed on a black hanger against a white wall. Handknit in unspun yarn, it showcases a textured slip stitch pattern and captivating colorwork. The sweater is beige with contrasting black colors.

The Case for Single Stranded Knitting

Many knitters prefer working with unspun yarn held double-stranded or single-stranded, paired with a lace-weight yarn like silk mohair or alpaca lace. If you're new to unspun yarn, starting with double-stranded knitting is advisable, as it provides a gentler introduction.

However, I want to make a case for the unique qualities of single-strand knitting, which produces a garment that's airy, ethereal, and surprisingly warm - there's truly nothing else quite like it. While it might seem intimidating for beginners, the exceptional results are undoubtedly worth it. Once you're comfortable with unspun yarn, trying this method is highly recommended. You might find it more manageable and enjoyable than you'd initially expect, despite any daunting tales you may have heard. Yes, it's not easy, but it's easier than you might think! And there's only one way to find out if it's for you - as always, by trying it yourself.

When you're ready to embark on this journey, I recommend giving the Fernlys Sweater a try. Designed with a single strand of Nutiden yarn, and knit from the top down, it features simple yet engaging techniques of both colourwork and texture that add unique character, but are all very manageable and suitable for knitting with a single strand. The short distances between colour changes ensure less strain on individual strands, thereby preventing breakage. The slip-stitch pattern adds an interesting element that separates the colourwork sections but isn't difficult to execute. The Estonian braid, while slightly more challenging, adds a delightful finishing touch.


The handknit Fernlys yoke sweater showcased on a black hanger against a white wall. Crafted with unspun Nutiden yarn, it boasts a minimalist stranded colorwork pattern depicting ferns and a slip stitch texture. The sweater is light grey with contrasting dark grey accents.

The Fernlys Sweater is a highly versatile knit, as it's worked at a gauge where you can work it just as comfortably single stranded as double stranded by simply switching the needle size. It offers a great opportunity to explore the joy of knitting with unspun yarn.

Cutting Unspun Yarn: Why You Shouldn't Dread Steeking

Although the Lo·ki Cardigan technically belongs in the category of simple, cozy stockinette staples, along with its sweater counterpart, the Lo·ki Raglan, I've decided to discuss it last. Why? Well, I can imagine that after you've just learned how to keep your yarn from breaking, the last thing you want to do is take scissors to it. Nevertheless, it's something you should consider, as there is no better yarn to work your first steeked cardigan with than unspun yarn.

The knitting pattern for the Lo·ki Cardigan offers ample tips and guidance on reinforcement and steeking, as well as buttonholes, bands, optional patch pockets, and multiple collar options. But why is steeking with unspun yarn easier? Because the yarn is incredibly forgiving. You can skip the backstitch or crochet reinforcement and simply felt the edges—they won't unravel. Unspun yarn is very forgiving of small mistakes and believe me, it's quite thrilling to cut the fabric!

Image of knitwear designer Lív Ulven wearing her handknit rustic dark grey Lo·ki Cardigan, crafted with unspun Nutiden yarn. The background features an old, dark brown wooden cabin wall.

Steeking may sound daunting, especially with unspun yarn, but it's actually a traditional and well-tested technique. It involves knitting a piece in the round, then cutting open certain sections (like down the front of a cardigan) to transform the shape. The natural stickiness of unspun yarn especially those with a high lanolin content, helps prevent the cut edges from fraying, making it perfect for steeking. So, as counterintuitive as it might seem, unspun yarn and steeking go hand in hand. So why not give it a try? I promise, it's not as scary as it sounds.

Working with Different Knitting Patterns Designed for Spun Yarn

Unspun yarn's adaptability allows its use in many patterns designed for spun yarn. However, due to its bulkier texture, some pattern adjustments might be necessary.

Before starting your main project, it's always wise to create a gauge swatch. This crucial step helps assess the size of your stitches when working with unspun yarn and provides the information needed to adjust your pattern or needle size accordingly. Pay special attention to the row gauge.

Proper preparation ensures that your finished product matches the dimensions outlined in your pattern. With attentive adjustments and a keen eye on the gauge, you can delve into the versatility of unspun yarn across a wide array of knitting projects. This opens a realm of creativity, offering new dimensions of texture, warmth, and lightness in your knitted works.

It's worth noting that the process can be reversed - for example, any DK, Aran, or worsted weight spun yarn that meets the gauge can be used in knitting patterns designed for unspun yarn held double. Nonetheless, for the best results, I recommend using natural, woolen-spun yarns.

An Afterword

A stack of handknit sweaters, designed by Lív Ulven and crafted from unspun yarn, arranged on a small round table against a white wall. The sweaters feature intricate textures and captivating colorwork designs.

As we wrap up this guide, I want to remind you that this is your journey. There's no right or wrong way to explore unspun yarn. Try different techniques, different patterns, push your boundaries, or stay comfortably within them. Ultimately, the best way to learn and grow as a knitter is to experiment and find what works best for you. Remember, the aim is to enjoy the process.

I hope that this series has demystified unspun yarn for you and encouraged you to incorporate it into your knitting projects. The world of unspun is vast and filled with exciting possibilities. It's a different way of knitting that can be challenging at first, but with time and patience, it can reward you with beautifully unique, lightweight, and warm garments.

So, grab your needles and your favourite plates of unspun, and embark on an exciting new chapter in your knitting journey. Whether you are a beginner starting with the Wayfarer Raglan or you're diving headfirst into steeking with the Lo·ki Cardigan, I wish you all the best. Remember, every stitch, every row, every pattern is a learning experience.

If you found this guide to be helpful or inspiring, please share these blog posts and don't forget to share your progress and final products on Ravelry, Instagram (using hashtag #UnspunYarnGuide #woodlandsknits @woodlandsknits), or your preferred knitting community. As always, if you have questions or need support, I am here to help. Enjoy your journey with unspun yarn!

Happy knitting!

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