My Naturally and Locally Dyed Fair Isle Sweater


It’s finished! You may have remembered that last April I mused about how I dreamed of creating a fair isle sweater out of colors I dyed from plants I collected around our yard, and by gosh I did it! I started knitting the sweater last fall, but uhg, white stockinette knitting can be so easy to put aside when more colorful or cabled projects present themselves. This poor sweater got pushed aside quite often. Then I ran out of yarn. Once I refilled my stash of white, knitting again was slow going until I got to the yoke, which is when I could be seen knitting constantly. Changing colors and following the pattern was great fun. And hallelujah it fits!

I followed Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Fair Isle Yoked Sweater pattern from The Opinionated Knitter pretty much exactly, except I cast on 180 stitches for a closer fitting sweater. If you knit and you haven’t yet read one of Elizabeth’s books, you must and soon! If you aren’t yet a knitter yet always wanted to try, I also say read one of her books, she’ll give you the courage to start. I also tried my hand at hemming the arms and bottom hem as she had suggested in other sweaters, and I like the results. (Ravelry notes here)

Every color, except one, comes from plants grown on our property or on our street. The dark brown is from walnut hulls, the orange from a mixture of red and yellow onion skins we grew, the light green from artichokes, yellows came from daffodils and fennel growing along the road down our street. The lighter browns came from purple iris’, blackberry leaves and mint, the light pink from curly dock root. The cream color within the yoke design was tinted with lichen I found by our mailbox. The only color that didn’t grow here was the dark pink in the upper part of the design, that came from avocado skins. It was a debate whether I wanted to use it or not, as it was a ‘foreign’ color, but in the end I added it in as aesthetically I knew it would benefit from it’s rich color. Plus the avocados were eaten on this property…doesn’t that count for something?

Wearing this project is so satisfying! I’m thinking of calling this sweater Romantic Notion, because months ago when I was scheming up this sweater, it seemed like such a far away, silly, romantic notion.

A lot of people have asked me recently when I find time to knit. I knit just about every night. Once the kids get tucked into bed, Scott and I usually fall into a useless heap on the couch. Though I have such twiddly fingers that even when the rest of me is an exhausted mess, my fingers want something to do…and so they knit. My other big knitting time is while the boys do their Tae Kwon Do. Twice a week I’ve sat on the bleachers with the other moms and gabbed and knit. Perfect white stockinette knitting conditions.

Next up on the needles is another local knitting project, but this time it’s all about the wool. Wool from sheep that live just a few houses down! Eek! More on that to come!

Close up pictures of the sweater here.


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39 responses to “My Naturally and Locally Dyed Fair Isle Sweater

  1. Diane Schyberg

    that has to be one of the most beautiful sweaters, i’ve ever seen! and to think of all that went into it!! just amazing! i’m a 64 year old beginning knitter and i’m still struggling with the simplest things.

  2. I am so impressed! I have plans of One Day doing something similar, and it’s nice to see this so nicely executed.

  3. joyforthesoul

    The sweater and how it came to be is an awesome story!! You did such a good job!! I’m afraid if I ever did anything like that the sweater would go in a frame and on a wall for display!! Kudoes to you!!


  4. I just wanted to tell you how beautiful of a job you did on the sweater. It turned out beautifully! I’ve been crocheting for 20 yrs and I’ve always had a fascination with knitting (I can knit/purl), but haven’t had much patience. LOL Thank you for sharing!

  5. A-mazing! Thank you for once again sharing the journey!

  6. How beautiful! I have often thought what a fun and satisfying project a sweater would be, but have backed down because of the sheer amount of work required to complete it. Congratulations! You did it! Thank you for sharing it. I would love to see a close up of your color work. Would you want to post another pic?

  7. Cathy

    Cousin, you constantly amaze me! The sweater is beautiful!

  8. That is just beautiful.. I would love to have seen a very close up picture of the colors.. You did an amazing job.. How talented you are!!

    I have a really tough time sitting still.. usually there is a book in my hand or Im in front of the computer.. One of these days though.. 😉

  9. Jessica

    You are a good example on how to live!!!!!

  10. juliewitt

    Beautiful! I would love to see a close-up photo of the yoke. You did a lovely job with the fit and the colours are just gorgeous. Best regards, Julie (sewknitful on Ravelry)

  11. Marie

    Wow. That sweater is gorgeous Kendra! The knitting is amazing, but the plant dying from your own plants is beyond awesome. I cannot wait to see it in person!

  12. Jen

    Kendra it is lovely! It came together so beautifully!

  13. Cate

    I’ve been following you for a while and haven’t left a comment yet but this entry and your work has blown me away to the point I had to say something. It’s amazing. So, so beautiful and the story behind it and how it came to be created so inspiration. Congratulations and beyond.

  14. madamesaslow

    Gorgeous! You make me want to knit a sweater.

  15. Jennifer

    A remarkable project, what an accomplishment. I can’t imagine knitting an entire sweater! It fits you beautifully and you are beautiful as well. Bravo!

  16. It is lovely!! But… Close ups? Please?

  17. Your sweater is absolutely gorgeous! I knit and crochet, so I know how much work you put into it, but I can’t imagine dyeing my own yarn. That is such a special touch you gave your sweater. I vote for a close up of the yoke, too.

  18. What an amazing project! I also inspire to do something similar, one day!
    Where are you getting your undyed yarn from? I’m having a hard time finding local yarn that isn’t super scratchy.

  19. Wow, that is really impressive! Beautiful!

  20. That is just beautiful Kendra!! You are so talented. I too wondered when you had time to knit so glad you addressed that! You are looking good too BTW!.

  21. Michelle

    That is just GORGEOUS, Kendra! Wow, that “romantic notion” really came together beautifully! Post some detail shots if you can, I’d love to see all the happy colors together.

  22. Amy

    It’s lovely – all the more so for the care and artistry you detailed. Thank you for showing us.

  23. Randi

    Extremely pretty. After I read about Fibershed on your blog, I started a dye plants garden. This is great motivation to carry that project forward.

  24. Christine

    Beautiful! Well done.

  25. Devon

    Anyone who knows you wouldn’t be surprised that you made something so awesome! You are so creative and talented…..I am envious!!

  26. Jo

    Your “romantic notion” is truly beautiful!

    Have you considered seeing what kind of colors you might get from wild mushrooms? One day as I was volunteering at the local 4-H Center, I was teaching stream ecology. At the same time there was a workshop going on, where the participants were making their own dyes and one of the ladies showed me a beautiful blue fabric. The dye was derived from a common mushroom in our area…in real life quite brown but the dye was brilliant blue.

  27. Aimee

    Wow! Your sweater is absolutely beautiful. I love how you hand dyed the colors. Wonderful!

  28. Your sweater is so lovely! That must’ve been a lot of work!

  29. Romantic Notion is it indeed. The idea, the process and the finished product….all complete romance. You wear it well!

  30. Janet Salyers

    Oh, How utterly charming! What a feat! Thank you for letting us see the sweater.

  31. Carol

    Wow! The sweater is just amazing! And the story just adds to the amazingness! Well done!

  32. Susan Arkles

    Kendra, Wow! the sweater is wonderful. I have been knitting for years, but never tackled fair island, but seeing your sweater, I think I’ll give it a try. On my library trip this week I’m going to look up that knitting book by Elizabeth Zimmerman, then a stop at the yarn shop.

  33. I love your sweater! That’s awesome that you dyed the yarn yourself using natural ingredients. All the warm, autumn-golden colors look great together. So cool.

  34. Really inspiring. As a WI native, lI’ve seen my share of Fair Isle sweaters but this must be one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.

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