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OK, so I could bang on about Marlisle for days. I’ve had so much fun cooking it up and teaching it. Sending my students off, buzzing with ideas for their own designs using this method is so satisfying. This might be partly because they are forced to – I hadn’t published any Marlisle patterns until now. This is the first one. The term is a mash-up of “marl” – two noticeably different shades of yarn plied or in this case, held together – and the “isle” from Fair Isle. Regardless of geographic origin, Fair Isle 
is often used as a catch-all for stranded colourwork. Marlisle allows this circular knitted sweater to have small patches of pure white on the front, but not the back without working intarsia, yet spread over distances that would be unworkable using regular stranded colourwork (because the floats would be epic).

To achieve this, a strand each of charcoal and white yarn are held double and worked in garter stitch for the majority of this bottom-up sweater. The white yarn is separated out where required and worked akin to stranded colourwork in stocking stitch to produce that pop of single colour. Because you are always carrying A&B colours around, you have both colours available to use individually at all times. The density of the fabric changes little, as the yarn is always double thickness thanks to the floats behind the colourwork sections.

The sweater used for the photoshoot was knitted combining a strand of Snældan 3-Ply in Fleece White held together with a 2-Ply in Charcoal. These are traditional Nordic weights of yarn as Snældan comes from the Faroe Islands and is a mix of Faroese and Falkland wool. I fell in love with all the Faroese yarns thanks to The Island Wool Company making them available in the UK. These two weights are equivalent to DK/worsted and 4ply/sport. In combination you are looking for a tension of 16 sts x 28 rows = 10cm / 4” over garter stitch using one strand of A and B held together, after blocking.


The resulting fabric is intentionally dense with definite structure thanks to the yarn and the garter stitch combo. Using two same-weight yarns or an aran/worsted with a heavy laceweight to achieve the required tension when combined is also an option. If you prefer a lighter fabric, you could try stranding two 4ply/sport yarns or even a DK/worsted with a heavier laceweight. I think you get the idea – dive into you stash and see what you have. It might be the perfect time to use a laceweight skein with many many metres/yards on it in combo with something heavier. Do keep an eye that you use the thicker one for the main colour in the rib and the motifs, or you could run into tension issues.

I promise I’ll bang on about Marlisle here a lot more in the future, not just on Instagram, but you know, gotta start somewhere and I am so excited about the possibilities of it. Also, you might notice that the photoshoot I did with Elle (fate that she trades as Yellow Bird Photography?) totally references my #yarnandoldcars habit.


The Humboldt is a graphic, cropped sweater with a boxy body balanced out by fitted sleeves. It is one of the 11 patterns in Penguin: a Knit Collection. I give instructions for sizes from XS to XXL and you should pick a size that allows the bust measurements to fit with 20-25 cm / 8-10” positive ease. You can find the pattern details on Ravelry and soon purchase it from your LYS (you might need to ask them to order it in, if they aren’t already stocking it).

If you’re lucky, you might win the giveaway that’s happening over on Mason Dixon Knitting which will get you a copy of the book AND the yarn to make your own Humboldt.

If not, you can get the yarn straight from The Island Wool Company and Get your copy of PENGUIN: A Knit Collection HERE!!!

2 thoughts on “PENGUIN: Introducing HUMBOLDT

  1. […] a vertical ‘seam’ runs down the fully ribbed leg – something I worked out when designing the Humboldt sweater. The first pair I knitted didn’t have the seam down the back. I’d used the jogless stripes […]

  2. […] on the front and the decorative raglan sleeves. Anna puts it much better, and more eloquently, here. The whole garment is knit in garter stitch, resulting in a very cozy fabric with lots of body. I […]

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