Finished Objects Knitting Life Travel

All is well that ends well – my Fern sweater

I have to say, that this sweater is probably the best thing I’ve ever knitted. Not only does it combine many of my favourite things, such as Cotton-Merino yarn, top-down construction, a turtleneck collar, a beautiful-yet-simple pattern and a perfect, semi-fitted shape. But even more importantly it was so fun to knit, that I literally had to force myself to put it down! And furthermore, like many of my most used clothes, it carries more than just yarn in its loops.

I think I first came across the pattern in Instagram last autumn, and I was just blown away by it. I knew I simply had to make one for myself, and preferably as soon as possible. However, I had at that point used up all of my yarn stash, so I didn’t have a sweater quantity of anything left. And as I still haven’t found any yarn shops to suit my picky taste in yarns in Belgrade, I had to hold my horses and wait until our trip to Finland in January 2021- so for many months my hands were just itching to start this new project!

And of course travelling in the winter of 2020-2021 meant spending some time in quarantine, and we did that at my husband’s family cottage about one hour drive away from Helsinki. It was nice and cozy, but for the little yard hoarder in me, that was dying to cast on an amazing project, that was just pure agony. I wanted to get started as soon as possible!

Like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory

It was probably the first day we were back in Helsinki and “allowed” to go out, that I took some time for myself and headed to a local yarn shop called Lankamaailma, anxious to buy yarn for at least the Fern sweater – and possibly to some other projects as well, of course.

The weather, however, was not on my side. It was actually something of a blizzard that day: the snowfall was really heavy, visibility was close to zero and the temperature must have been something like -20 degrees celsius. But I wasn’t about to let that stop me from going – cold weather is only a question of the right gear!

I must say, I had missed wandering around in a yarn shop SO MUCH! Even though I was wearing a hundred layers of clothes (including ski pants), I think I must have spent hours there, just in awe and completely dazzled by the vast selection, trying to decide what kind material and colour I wanted for this project.

Finally, soaking in my own sweat, I found myself drawn to red-purple – which is quite atypical for me. My positive experiences with cotton-merino in my BiRTHDAY sweater made me lean toward cotton-merino with this project too. And for the “fluff”, I chose a really shiny and beautiful Filcolana Tilia, which is a blend of 70% goat mohair and 30% silk.

After finally buying the yarns for my Fern (and yes, some other projects too…), I suddenly felt quite unsure about my choice of colour. What if I was just so overwhelmed with the selection that I made the wrong choice? I actually even thought about going back and changing them to something else, something more “like me”. Not even making the swatch made my doubts disappear, even though the fabric was beautiful and the gauge spot on to what the pattern required. So I decided to cast on the project despite my doubts, and just trust that it will be gorgeous.

The results of my little yarn-shopping spree

The Winter Wonderland – and having to leave it

I finally started to work on the project pretty much in the midway of our visit. It was still unusually cold even for Finland, and everything was like from the movie Frozen. High snowdrifts everywhere, trees looking like cotton candy – a true winter wonderland.

I really love winter, and to maximize the experience, we traveled to Ruka ski resort (in Northern Finland) for a long weekend – and we landed to a crisp frost of -34 degrees! The little getaway was all about skiing (both cross-country and downhill), but there I also finished the soft and squishy fisherman’s rib collar, in our little cabin in the middle of Northern wilderness. Maybe the merino wool will remember the extreme cold?

The main memories from the early stages of the Fern project are from my husband’s parents’ place, where we stayed while in Helsinki. And contrary to what many may think, after being so isolated for many months, I thoroughly enjoyed living with parents-in-law! Needless to say, I was extremely happy that our daughter got to spend so much time with her grand-parents, but I also really loved our quiet evenings together, just watching TV (a Norwegian drama called Atlantic Crossing is heavily associated with my Fern) and drinking tea – and of course me working on my sweater.

But in all that coziness there was an undertone of sadness, because our returning to Belgrade was inevitably approaching in just few days.

That time leaving was really difficult for me. Unlike when we moved to Belgrade, this time we knew for sure that nobody could visit us, and that we were headed to a city with such polluted air, that we couldn’t really go out on most days. Furthermore, our daughter had just re-connected with all the grand-parents and other family members, and now we would drag her away from all those people that had become dear to her. So I felt like a heartless monster.

Working on this soft and warm project, stitch by stitch and row by row, helped me process the mix of emotions and cope with the ache in my heart. And I can still feel that calming effect whenever I wear the sweater – or even see it in my closet.

What a project!

It took me about 3 months altogether to finish the Fern sweater. During that time we changed location from Finland to Serbia, and went from full winter to spring – which to our surprise in Belgrade started already in February and continued all the way to May. I think it even snowed once in April!

I also carried out most of the empirical research part for my MBA thesis and attended 5 courses (by April I had finished three of them and still working on two). To add to all of that, I was elected the vice-president of the Spouses Association of the MFA of Finland – so I really had a lot on my plate. Fortunately, this project, with its simple-yet-elegant, unputdownable 3-row-repeat eyelet pattern, and the general feel of a warm hug was there for me, even during the times when I felt overwhelmed with everything and just wanted to drop it all. Well, everything else except for knitting.

I felt a bit of pressure to finish the Fern while it was still sweater weather in Serbia. The thought of having to wait until autumn (or summer in Finland) to wear it was simply unbearable. And luckily I did! The Fern kept me warm on the terraces, where I worked on my studies while the insides were closed due to covid. The Fern kept me warm on our fun little weekend trip with friends to Eco Farm Milanovic in Despotovac. And the Fern was the first thing I packed when we started to prepare for our month-long summer visit to Finland – to keep me warm in the Finnish Summer!

(Pro Trip: always pack a warm sweater when going to Finland! Too bad this summer the weather was way too hot to even consider wearing it, except for one chilly morning at our cottage in Ostrobothnia)

Can I make one more, please?

The Fern was in an immense joy and pleasure to knit, I really wouldn’t mind making another one at any time! In fact, since I had some leftover yarn, I already made my daughter a mini-Fern, without the turtleneck and using just the cotton merino yarn (to make it machine washable). I can’t wait for the autumn, so we can wear our Ferns together!

And for the choice of colour? I couldn’t be happier with it now. I should have just trusted my instinct and silence the voices of doubt in my head. In fact I was already in love with the colour and the yarns by the time I started to work on the actual pattern. So lesson learned – no second-guessing your gut-feeling, EVER!

Happy Knitting!

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