A challenging project can mean many things: it can be a project that stretches your skills in all directions, or it can mean a project that specifically pushes a certain technique to a higher level, or a project that has some interesting details which are out of the ordinary and make you pay extra attention.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but I have gathered together a selection of projects that present a challenge in one way or another. Some of these challenges may surprise you. For example, one of the most difficult skills to learn is knitting Stocking Stitch perfectly over a wide area. It is generally thought that plain Stocking Stitch is perfect for a beginner project, but the opposite is the case as there is nowhere to hide and the eye will catch the smallest imperfection.
Another skill often overlooked is finishing; many a perfectly knitted project has been ruined by poor or careless finishing. So with that in mind, I have chosen a couple of designs for inclusion here simply because their ultimate success hangs on very careful finishing.
Whatever your particular favourite technique may be, you should find something here to interest you.
Firebirds Cardigan Patterncard Kit
The Firebirds Cardigan is in some ways a relatively straightforward stranded-colour design. It features set-in sleeves and a prominent deep rib, which do demand care, but the trickiest part is the pattern setting of each band of birds as their direction alternates throughout, giving the design its lovely sense of movement. However, this means that setting each pattern band requires close attention so that the bands of birds sit above each other correctly. Particular care has to be taken throughout all of the shaping at the armholes, neck and sleeves. So this design is an intense exercise in pattern setting and watching both the chart and your knitting as you work.
Jacobite Rose Patterncard Kit
Like the Firebirds Cardigan above, this design is included not because of any particular challenge in the knitting itself, but because of the pattern setting. Vertical panels require very careful setting and close attention to your knitting as you progress, especially when it comes to increasing and decreasing, which involves extending or removing chart pattern stitches. If you have not tried a vertical panel design before, this cardigan is an excellent one to attempt.
Henrietta Patterncard Kit
The Henrietta is a design where the tension and finishing are all-important. The collar requires perfect tension so that the stranded 2 Ply facing fits exactly into the 3 Ply textured collar. The collar instructions are detailed so it's an intriguing and intricate piece of work if you feel ready for a little knitting adventure to top off the comparatively easy, lightly shaped and textured 3 Ply body and sleeves. The collar is the focal point of the whole design and it is one to take time and care over.
The Boreray Pullover has a straightforward, small allover pattern which is easy and relaxing to knit. This is balanced by deep and spectacular 1/1 ribs which take time and perfect tension to knit successfully. The sleeves feature shaping on the ribs, and the button band details provide an interesting challenge that will stretch your finishing skills.
Merveille Du Jour Patterncard Kit
The Merveille du Jour poncho offers the opportunity to perfect your plain Stocking Stitch 3 Ply knitting as well as working a 2/2 coloured rib trim and a patterned yoke worked in 2 Ply. Keeping your tension even throughout the Stocking Stitch main body, the stranded yoke and the ribbed edgings will really make you pay attention to your tension over different techniques and weights of yarn. The beret is worked in 2 Ply like the poncho yoke, and it demonstrates how extra visual impact can be created by decreasing the colourwork pattern to just a few stitches at the crown.
Mol Eire Patterncard Kit
Like the Mervielle du Jour, the Mol Eire also features lots of Stocking Stitch, but the main challenge for this design is the careful making, assembling and knitting together of the platelets that form the bottom of the pullover. Neat finishing and even pickup is essential so that the showcase edging is perfect.
Graceknot Patterncard Kit
The Graceknot features one of my Celtic-style knotwork motifs carefully set in a tesselated arrangement within an A-line shape. The knotwork itself requires care, especially when beginning and ending each knot. It is also crucial to ensure that the motifs are tesselated exactly as given in the instructions throughout the whole design. The collar features smaller versions of the knots and great care needs to be taken in knitting up and finishing the front and collar bands perfectly. This is an excellent project for anyone looking to develop their cable skills on from something more straightforward such as the Na Craga.
Herald Full Set Patterncard Kit
The Herald full set features a wide range of styles and techniques along with some very interesting shaping and ruffling at the edgings of the pullover and cowl. The ruffled edgings feature short row shaping within a textured and coloured pattern, as well as shaping within the stranded cowl and gloves. This is also an excellent project with which to gain an understanding of garment construction.
The Elizabethan Jacket from the book A Collector's Item is a complex stranded-colour design. It includes godets from hem to waist as well as body shaping worked within the large scale charted pattern. This is one of the most difficult stranded designs on our website and it really stretches your stranded knitting ability. You will need a copy of the book A Collector's Item for the pattern instructions.
Kimberley is another beautiful design from the book A Collector's Item by Jade Starmore. The focus here is on finishing. The main pieces are worked in Stocking Stitch with the centre lower back and sleeves shaped and then finished with narrow edgings to form the triangular spaces for the inserts. The stranded-colour inserts are made separately, then embroidered and sewn in to the finished and blocked back and sleeves. This is another excellent exercise in garment construction and finishing. It requires great attention to detail as the eye is drawn to the detailed inserts. You will need a copy of the book A Collector's Item for the pattern instructions.
The Eala Bhan design from the book Aran Knitting (2010 edition) is a very complex cabled design. It is very precisely shaped througout the body and sleeves, and includes shaping within the actual cables, which are themselves intricate. The collar is also very challenging to knit and finish successfuly. Eala Bhan is without doubt the most complex cabled design that I have ever created and so it does stretch the skills in this area. Please note that you will need a copy of the book for the pattern instructions. The yarn pack linked below supplies the yarn only in the size and colour ordered.
Mountain Hare Jacket
The Mountain Hare Jacket design from the book Glamourie by Alice Starmore involves delicate and intricate knit and purl textures which are enhanced with touches of embroidery that become more vibrant as the design progresses upwards. The jacket has a back vent and sleeves with a lightly gathered cap. The complexity comes from maintaining a perfectly even tension while keeping continuity of the pattern and the shaping of the garment. The finishing is key, with the embroidery providing a subtle yet dramatic touch to the design. Felted buttons also add another skill. Please note that you will need a copy of the book for the pattern instructions; the yarn pack linked below is for the yarn only.
The Damselfly Cardigan from the book Glamourie by Alice Starmore is a complex stranded design which also involves Stocking Stitch, shaping and areas of knitting pieces together. The shaped and colour-stranded yoke requires careful attention as it is shaped to the armholes. Perfect knitting of the textured and colour-patterned trims is crucial to the successful finish of this design. Please note that you will need a copy of the book for the pattern instructions; the yarn pack linked below is yarn only.
Sea Anemone Pullover
The Sea Anemone design from the book Glamourie by Alice Starmore is another exercise in fine textured knitting, embroidery and finishing. The shaped body and sleeves are knitted with delicate textured patterns and, after blocking, each piece is embroidered with bold shell stitches strategically placed within the knitted pattern. It is finished with dramatic short-row ruffles at the neck and cuffs. Please note that you will need a copy of the book for the pattern instructions; the yarn pack linked below is yarn only.
The Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Jane Seymour designs from Tudor Roses by Alice Starmore (2013 & 2017 editions) all involve texture and colourwork within complex garment shapes. These three designs are all very different, but they each demand an equal amount of attention to detail in their making and construction. These designs will raise your skills up to expert level In terms of textured colourwork and garment shaping. They each require time and patience to achieve a perfect result.
Please note that you will need a copy of the book for the pattern instructions; the yarn packs linked below are for yarn only.