Published in the Spring/Summer 2017 Knitty.
Lots of people slow their knitting in summer. Not me. Warm weather is the time to try out great alternatives to wool and see what they’re like. Ever since I picked up a hank of hemp, I’ve been looking forward to trying this fiber. Hemp is funky, a little bit twiney and stiff when knitting, but the finished fabric is wonderful. Similar in texture to linen, the drape is dreamy and makes a cool fabric on a hot day.
Yup, hemp is the same plant as marijuana—but fiber farmers only use certified low-THC (the psychoactive component) varieties of the plant. For thousands of years hemp was used to make products like paper, rope, canvas, and textiles. Hemp is so old, it’s new again.
Like most of my designs, this top began as something created to fill a need in my wardrobe: an interesting summer top. By interesting, I mean one that is not a black t-shirt, which seems to be all I wore last summer.
At the same time I realized that I had these hanks of AllHemp6 that landed in my stash from an impulse purchase. You know the kind of shopping: I was in the wonderful Churchmouse Yarns and Teas and saw the hemp that I had wanted to explore for so long and impulsively grabbed a few hanks of colors that made me happy. When I got home I had no idea what I was going to do with them.
After I knit a swatch of two different striping patterns and asked my best pal, Ellen, which stripes she liked better, she said, “use both!” So that’s how I began.
The top uses two different stripe patterns: Thin Stripes alternate between Blue and Orange; Wide Stripe repeat is Blue, Tan, Orange, Tan. AllHemp6 comes in a wide palette of great colors, anyone could have a great time making their own selections.
I know that stripes are not considered the most flattering, most especially on women “of a certain size” (me) but I can’t help designing with them — they are so much fun to knit! However I know that Maryjane would also look great in a single color.
I am wearing Maryjane with 2 inches of positive ease (above). My lovely girl Tamara is wearing the very same with 5.5 inches of positive ease (below).
This simple A-line structure make this very flexible in sizing, and since it’s knit top down, its easy to fit as you work by trying it on as you go.
Here are a few more tips for best success with Maryjane.
• Hemp is a bit twine-like and splitty, but so worth it in its drapey and funky fabric. Really unique and interesting. And softens each time you wash it.
• Cakes from a ball winder won’t hold together while you’re knitting, the fiber is too smooth to cling — wind the cake into a ball by hand.
• Fun fact: two of the hanks I used did not have a start/end, they were knotted in one big loop! Just cut the knot to begin to ball up the yarn.
• I used braided joins to create a good looking join and I believe will hold better than weaving in the ends because of that smooth fiber quality.
• Try the top on a few rows after you’ve joined the body and see what you think.
• I like to use a ribbon instead of waste yarn for trying on the top as well as holding the sleeve stitches. Ribbons keep the stitches more open and they slide nicely around the needle.
• Don’t even think about cutting the colors as you work! Just twist colors around each other as you go. I didn’t do any kind of jogless color striping, I just switched colors.
If you haven’t knit a top down raglan before, you’re in for a treat. So easy, so fun! You start with a circle, place markers to delineate the front, the sleeves, and the back. Then you’ll work a little short row shaping for the back of the neck. Next you’ll be making increases around each marker to grow those four different sections. When you’ve done your increasing, you’ll continue by putting the sleeve sections on holders and knit all stitches to join the front to the back. Then keep knitting down to the bottom edge adding a few increases at each side to make the A-line shape. At any time, pop the top on a ribbon and try it on! After the body is done, you’ll put each sleeve on a needle and knit those in the round for just a few rows. Quick and easy. I hope you try it!