StressKnits

My Year of Andrea: A Year of Knitting and Learning to Love Myself.

Stacy OliverComment
All of my Year of Andrea Projects

All of my Year of Andrea Projects

Last year while I was stuck in bed in the hospital 2 weeks before my daughter Eliza was born I was bored. I wan’t allowed to walk anywhere, I was alone most of the day, I was scared. Between visits from my husband, friends, and family, all I could do was knit, watch something, or listen to something. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t knit. I hate watching TV in the hospital, it makes me feel dizzy and nauseous. So I would watch knitting podcasts, movies, and TV shows on my phone. Or if I was sick of watching I would turn on a podcast (usually true crime) and just listen. 2 weeks of sitting in a hospital bed trying not to have a baby is a LONG time. So there were moments where I wouldn’t want to knit, so I would browse instagram and ravelry. Andrea Mowry had just wrapped up her Harlow Hat 4 day challenge over memorial weekend and I was craving casting one on, but I didn’t have yarn for new cast ons with me, and my own personal stash was lacking in yarn that would make the perfect hat. So I started online window-shopping and added the pattern to my ever growing queue. As I was browsing my queue dreaming of what I would cast on once I was finally out of the hospital I started noticing a pattern in my patterns; they were almost all Andrea Mowry designs.

I fell in love with Andrea’s designs with find your fade, which I think is pretty common for most of us, and have been knitting her stuff ever since. But I was always searching for the perfect yarn, or nervous about the finished object not being perfect, or not ending up how I envisioned. So I decided right there in that hospital bed that I would spend the next year casting on one of her designs every month, starting with the Harlow Hat.

After a month in the hospital which included a NICU stay for Eliza and re-admittance for an infection for me, we were finally able to come home (I was still being visited by a home nurse every other day for the next month, so it took a while to settle into our house with our daughter). During one of Eliza’s naps that July, I decided to cast on the Harlow hat. The cast on took a few tries but once I figured it out ( with the help of tutorials) it was a wonderful rhythmic knit. Brioche used to be this mystifying stitch that I would really have to focus on when I was knitting, but this hat made it feel as simple at stockinette.

The Harlow hat took a back seat when I was picked to be a test knitter for the Throwback sweater. I can’t even begin to explain the excitement I felt when I got the email saying I was chosen to test knit. I ordered yarn and cast on immediately. This sweater was so much fun! It got me through countless pumping sessions that ended in tears because my body wasn’t producing enough. It was my focus when I was doing everything in my power to try to produce more milk. It was my comfort when I was hooked up to a machine more than I was able to hold my daughter. It was my solace when I realized I could never keep up with my growing girl and had to end my breastfeeding journey much sooner than I had hoped. This sweater saw so many nights of tears when I felt like a failure and that my body had betrayed me for the millionth time.

The Throwback

The Throwback

When my wound had finally healed, and I was no longer connected to my wound vac 24/7, I was able to dye yarn again. I started experimenting with new dye and new techniques I was constantly thinking about while in the hospital. Something I had wanted for a long time was the perfect mint green with darker green speckles, so I tried to dye something like that and after a few skeins that just missed the mark, my succulents colorway was born. The moment I saw the colorway I knew I had to use it in my next cast on, Birds of a Feather. This shawl was a labor of love. It took months to finish, but I’m so glad that I have it. It’s such a beautiful and light shawl that I can wear year round. If that shawl taught me anything, it’s that I love mohair but not on its own.

Both the Harlow hat and the throwback sweater used Spincycle yarns which I had loved from a distance for most of my knitting life, never knowing what to do with it. Once I started knitting with it, I couldn’t stop. So in October I cast on The Shift. It was my first journey into mosaic knitting and I loved every second of it.

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One of the patterns I knew I had to knit during my year of Andrea was Wool and Honey. It’s a sweater that I’ve loved ever since I saw the first picture of it. I love a good honeycomb motif, I love a good wooly sweater, I love a boxy shape, I just love this sweater. So when one of my favorite yarn stores, Wool and Honey, was having a knit-a-long for the sweater I knew I had to join (the discount didn’t hurt either). I knit feverishly on this thing. It’s all I would do any time Eliza was sleeping. I tried so hard to get it done in the month that the knit-a-long was running, but I was a sleeve short. I never miss a deadline, and here I was, not done. It was weirdly devastating. It added to all of my shame and failure I felt, and to top it all off it was too big. And looking back on it now I know that I was deep into my postpartum depression and even if i would have finished on time and had it fit, I would have found something to blame myself for. I took this beautiful sweater, that I loved, and turned it into this object that represented everything that had gone wrong in the past year. I put the sweater in a drawer and haven’t looked at it since, until now. Now that I’m feeling happier and more confident, I’ll figure out if I actually love the fit (I kind of like it now?) or if I’ll give it to a friend, or maybe even frog it and knit a size down.

After that sweater mess I decided I needed to take a break from sweaters and cast on the Night Shift in December. It was the perfect project to work on during the holidays. The ever changing colors of spincycle really kept this knit fun and interesting, and it was just what I needed to clear my mind, move forward, and enjoy our first Christmas as a family.

Once the new year hit, I decided it was finally time to cast on the sweater that I knew I would love, the Weekender. This sweater looks good on EVERY BODY. I’m not a big fan of a bottom up sweater, but I would knit this again and again. Once I finished and I tried it on, I realized that I could knit sweaters that fit me and actually fit into my wardrobe. I didn’t have to knit something to fit into a trend in the knitting community (hello imposter syndrome, you can leave now). The Weekender gave me permission to enjoy what I was making. It gave me permission to use a more affordable yarn (shout out to Candance[Transitory] who inspired me to use Knit Picks stroll tweed once I saw her finished sweater) and not feel guilty about it. This was the turning point in my journey, I was no longer going to knit what I thought people would want to see, I was going to knit the patterns I wanted in the yarn I wanted and enjoy it!

Enter Ronan. Ronan is my ideal sweater. I’ve bought many sweaters with this silhouette. I had that yarn to knit this for a while, but I was nervous that it would never fit my postpartum body. Or if it fit, that it wouldn’t look good on me. But I really wanted this sweater. So for my birthday month (February) I finally gave in and cast on the sweater of my dreams. It’s quite a large undertaking because of how long and oversized it is, plus the giant brioche shawl collar, so I’m still working on it. It’s actually the only project from my year of Andrea that’s still on the needles, I’m hoping to finish in the next two months, but whenever I finish it, I know it will be a sweater I wear all of the time.

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I was focused so hard on my Ronan that I almost forgot to cast on something in March. I was packing up a group of mini skeins to send for yarn support when I saw the most gorgeous pink fade. It made me think that I need to cast on one of two faded projects, either the Comfort Fade Cardi or the So Faded pullover. I really wanted a project that would go pretty quickly so I opted for the Comfort Fade Cardi since it’s knit in a heavier yarn and would come back to the So Faded later. I dyed up my cream to pinky/brown fade and cast on. There’s not a whole lot I can say about this sweater except that I love it and I’m going to wear it all the time once the weather gets chilly. I’m so glad I waited to knit this sweater until I had the perfect fade. I can picture myself curled up on the couch in this sweater watching football and eating apples that we just picked at the orchard.

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In April I was starting to get into the full swing of prepping for my first time vending at a knitting event. I really wanted to show off my worsted base in one of my minty semi solids. I pulled a sweaters quantity of Lake Effect out of the shop and cast on my new favorite sweater, the Weekender, immediately. We were going to visit my sister in law in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan so I knew I would have at least 9 hours each way to knit on this sweater. Oh boy was that a mistake. I don’t know how I messed up or where I messed up, but the faux seam running up the middle of the front and back was off center. When I was binding off the neckline I dropped a stitch and didn’t notice. When I was doing the 3 needle bind off for the shoulders the front and back were uneven. But I fudged all of it and pretended that I didn’t care. I even knit an entire sleeve. This might have been the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in knitting. The moment I tried on this sweater and realized the faux seams were off center I should have frogged it. It stayed in time out for a few months, but when I pulled it out to finish the second sleeve I couldn’t stand it. My first Weekender wasn’t perfect either, and I’ll probably give it to a friend who will wear it more than I will, but I still love it. I can see myself knitting a bunch of them in different colors because it really is the perfect sweater. But I just can’t live with all of these mistakes. So for the first time in my knitting life, I’m admitting defeat and I’m going to frog the sweater and try again.

It was memorial day once again and Andrea posted that she was going to host another 4-day hat challenge. I knew I had to join this time so I ordered some spincycle and patiently waited for the announcement. I was planning on knitting the Ghost Ranch hat, but when she released the shiftalong hat for the knit-a-long I knew i had to knit it. After 3 days of knitting nothing but this hat I finished! It’s the perfect hat that I can see myself wearing all fall and winter and I can see myself knitting this one a few more times and even one for my daughter.

As my year of Andrea was coming to a close I decided to return to her sweater patterns, and cast on a pink So Faded pullover in my hand dyed yarn. I love fingering weight sweaters and this one is no exception. I cast on a size with more ease than the pattern calls for, because I know that’s what I like. I’m so glad that I did! I finished this sweater a few days ago and I can already tell that I’m going to wear this sweater all of the time. I love it so much that I’m knitting my daughter the pint sized version in the left over yarn. When I tried this sweater on for the first time last night I was a little nervous that it would be too small. I was nervous that I would feel uncomfortable in it, that it might be too cropped. When I looked in the mirror I smiled. I love this sweater and the way it makes me feel. It’s in yarn that I love, it’s that perfect size where it’s cozy but doesn’t look sloppy. I feel so confident in this sweater, it’s intoxicating. This is how I always want to feel.

The last project I cast was another test knit, the Stonecrop Pullover. I used the exact same yarn I used in my first project: Spincycle and Quince & Co. This year had come full circle. The stonecrop was a bit out of my comfort zone, and as I was knitting it I didn’t think I would ever wear it, not even to Rhinebeck. It has a lot of details, bobbles, cables, texture, and colorwork. Part of me wondered if this would look good on my body, if it would call attention the parts of me I was trying to love but still struggled loving in pictures. As I was blocking the sweater I was dreading my husband taking pictures of me in it. I was really nervous I wouldn’t want to share these pictures on instagram. Once I put the sweater on, I felt nothing but confidence. It hit me in all of the right places, it fit like I wanted it to, it looked cute with high waisted jeans. I felt good in this sweater, I felt proud in this sweater.

Stonecrop Pullover

Stonecrop Pullover

And then it was over. I had cast on an Andrea Mowry pattern every month for the past year. I finished all except for 2 (the Ronan that I’m still working on and my second Weekender that I’m frogging). This year has been a rollercoaster (aren’t they all?) but I’ve learned a lot, and these designs helped me through.

  • It’s okay to not knit with the yarn or colors in the pattern pictures, in fact you’ll like it better if you knit what you want. I know this feels like common sense, but I’ve struggled with this since I started knitting.

  • Not everything is going to fit and that’s okay. It’s not a failure. It’s an opportunity to learn more about what styles you like and what fits into your wardrobe.

  • Knit for your body. This is something I’ve struggled with since I’ve had my daughter. My body has drastically changed due to medications I was put on and I’ve been struggling to feel comfortable in my own skin ever since. I’ve realized that it’s okay to want to feel good now. It’s okay to knit that sweater to fit now. I deserve to feel good now. Andrea’s patterns gave me that confidence, especially the Weekender, So Faded, and Stonecrop. I highly recommend these three patterns to every knitter I know.

  • Stop trying to knit what every one else is knitting. This includes patterns and yarn. If you like it, go for it. But if you’re doing it to just fit in with the trends it’s not going to be worth it. I’ve felt like I had to knit the popular yarn/pattern so many times. But now that I have embraced knitting what I love and not caring if other people love it, I enjoy my knits so much more and I will wear my knits more if I genuinely love them.


Thank you all so much for following this journey, and for everyone who started their own year of Andrea. It was such an amazing ride.

I’m obviously going to keep knitting her designs and I can’t wait to share more of them!