To Carbeth, or not to Carbeth?

Recently a lot of knitters have been making Kate Davies’ design, Carbeth:


© Kate Davies

It is a kind of funky, nicely-shaped, bulky, cropped pullover which knits up really fast.  Mason-Dixon Knitting started a Bang Out a Carbeth KAL and it seems as if everyone is knitting one.  I spent a lot of time considering it, and finally decided against it, mainly because there is no way I could wear a bulky pullover more than maybe two days a year, if that.  Especially a cropped one.  I know that it would get put away in a drawer and never worn.  (I am either hot or cold; mostly hot.  If I am hot, I won’t wear this, and if I am cold, I don’t want it cropped.)

And then Kate came out with a Carbeth Cardigan, and I started considering all over again.


© Kate Davies Designs

I think this looks fantastic on Kate.   But, to tell the truth, I am not sure that it would be fantastic on me.  Yes? No?  I have moved back and forth on this many times.  And then, in a moment of weakness, I bought the yarn to make it: 14 skeins of Buachaille, in the beautiful dark grey natural shade she calls Squall (the one on the bottom in the below photo).


So now I have the yarn to knit up a quick, bulky cardigan, and I am hesitating.  Do I really want a Carbeth cardigan?   Yes.  It’s adorable.   But will I wear it?  That is the million dollar question.  I am trying really hard to knit things that I will actually wear.

If I don’t knit it, the yarn will definitely be used to knit something else; it is gorgeous yarn.  The Carbeth sweaters are knit with two strands of yarn held together so I have plenty to knit a sweater with a single strand (it is a DK weight). For example, I have enough of it to knit either one of these patterns that I have my eye on;  Kirigami by Gudrun Johnston:


© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

Or Cahal by Linda Marveng:


© Eivind Røhne

What do you think?  Should I Bang Out a Carbeth?

In the meantime, I am still sick.  It has been well over 3 weeks now.  I have just started my second round of antibiotics.  I am unhappy, and grumpy, and not able to concentrate on knitting or reading, and probably a bear to live with right now.  But I have yarn…..

43 thoughts on “To Carbeth, or not to Carbeth?

  1. Could you knit the Carbeth cardi with just one strand? I know it would take a bunch of math but then it won’t be so heavy and you might wear it more. I can also see you getting a lot of wear out of the Kirigami. Good luck choosing! I’ve stopped knitting for a while because I have more things than I wear and nobody else I’m willing to knit for is interested. Don’t worry, I’m not stuffing my face – I’ve gone to cross stitch to keep my hands busy. : )

    • Hi Arlene! Cross stitch is a good alternative. I find it hard on the eyes, but it has the nice peaceful aspects of knitting. I have not yet reached that point of sweater saturation. As to the one strand – I think that with this sweater you need the right gauge to make the slopes work.

  2. I do love the kirigami, but it does look as though it requires a fair amount of concentration, so maybe not a good choice right now. I’m waffling about the Carbeth also, I am concerned about getting the yoke/shoulder fitting right so that it doesn’t pull in above the bust. I too would prefer that it be a lighter weight, worsted or DK. I certainly hope you start to feel better, although as a grumpy bear, it sounds like a short hibernation is in order.

    • I really do feel like a grumpy bear. I should definitely be sticking with easy knitting right now, although the truth is that I am mostly reading instead. As to whether you should knit Carbeth – I have seen some really good ones, and also some that in my opinion are not all that flattering. (This is true of every sweater pattern, of course, so not much help!)

  3. They are all lovely patterns! I am partial, though, to the kirigami and love the Cahal. Linda Marveng’s designs are quite delightful! I usually steer away from cropped designs because I am tall, however do like this look. Wearability is so important! Good luck with your decision.

  4. I love Carbeth and have wondered how it would work for me, since I am bustier than Kate is. I would also lengthen it a bit… and I agree a cardigan makes more sense. 😉 I think you could do the math to knit it with one strand, but I would think about it. A heavy cardigan is so useful as a jacket on a cool day! And to snuggle in when you are sick!

    • There are so many photos of Carbeth on Ravelry by now, that you should be able to find some on women with similar body shapes. I do have one big cuddly chunky weight sweater (Leyfi) and I find that I wear it once or twice a year. Now, if I lived in Maine it would be a different story….

      • Lol i have a huge cabled bulky weight sweater, it weighs POUNDS and I love it but don’t get a lot of wear out of it. But Carbeth looks more usable. Good idea to check the project photos for people shaped like me!

  5. I’m going to vote no….. I think the other two sweaters pictured are much more ‘you’ and having tried and failed (twice) to knit a Carbeth I’m of the opinion that it isn’t in fact an easy or quick pattern to get right. Also, having used Buachaille single before I think it would be far too heavy to be wearable held double……

    • Julia, I think you have hit the nail on the head – I need it to be “me”. The thing about Kate’s stuff is that I always want to be her in the photo, living in the gorgeous Scottish countryside, walking through mystical, misty landscapes with my fantastic coats and my trusty dog at my side. In fact, I hate the cold and wet and don’t have a dog. So, with Kate’s stuff I have to decide whether the pattern itself is pulling me in as much as the whole brand identity. With many of her pieces, the answer is yes because she is a fantastic designer and her style really appeals to me, but with Carbeth I think I am identifying more with the brand. That said, I am super impressed by Kate’s ability to project such a strong brand identity (helped along of course by Tom’s brilliant photography). It’s interesting that you have tried to knit it twice; perhaps it is a subtle message from the knitting gods.

      • Ah Kelly! I am so with you on Kate’s branding and incredible talent. I too want to be ‘Kate in the pictures’ and have a wardrobe full of Cabbages and Roses skirts to prove it! Although I live in Scotland it is not to be.

        Carbeth is an unusual one… Although I love Kate in it I do not love the garment itself for many reasons, not least of which is my dislike of chunky yarn, something I managed to blank from my mind when the gorgeous photos led me to two horrible attempts at it! I’m now knitting Coinneach, which is far more ‘me’ both in styling and knitting! This is so important and the reason that I cannot knit to other people’s requirements – I hope you are feeling better now and look forward to seeing your next sweater xx

    • Thanks, Anita. It is always great to get opinions from others. Another interesting thing – I must have a rebellious streak – but I find that once something becomes a big trend, then I start to lose interest. This might be why I don’t knit socks or triangular shawls, and why I am not a fan of marls or speckles.

      • There are a lot of trends that I do not go with either, unless they really appeal to me. I find that garments that I identify with tend to last longer, and the others get frogged to be made into something else because I end up not wearing them. 😉
        Though I think the technique used in carbeth is unique, the garment is not me.

  6. I decided to pass on Carbeth after I looked at the projects on Ravelry, and didn’t think it looked particularly flattering on people with figures like mine. It is lovely on quite a lot of people, but just not for me. Kirigami looks really interesting to knit and also flattering as well!

    • Well, the good thing about so many people knitting it, is that there are now many examples on Carbeth on many body types. That helps a lot. I have seen some great examples, and even some on women with my general shape as well. But the truth is that the ones I like the best are very cropped, and I just can’t do that look. It would look great on my daughter, Emma, who is tall and willowy.

  7. Oh, I am so happy to be on your blog again and in such delightful company! The Carbeth sweaters and the Kirigami are gorgeous patterns! Good luck with your decision and I wish you a speedy recovery!

  8. Cute bulky cardigan originally – but like you I am not sure it would suit my shape – also, like you, I have been known to buy the wool for a project and change my mind about what it will be fairly quickly! So much wool in the world, so much temptation!

  9. I’ve been through exactly the same thought process as you – dismissed the jumper because it’d be too hot, then tempted again by the cardigan. I’ve decided not to on the grounds that my favourite cardigans are knitted in 4ply!

  10. I’m another one for whom Carbeth is definitely not the right shape, in jumper form at least. Like you, I am slightly drawn to the cardigan version – it is sometimes good to knit something fairly basic and practical. But I’m at that time of life when warm clothing is definitely not needed very often lol, so with my biased view I would encourage a different, lighter, use for your lovely Buachaille – how about something like this…?

    • Thanks for the link, Liz. I think that I am going to switch my thoughts now to knitting some more summery things, and put the Buachaille on hold until I have made up my mind. I almost always end up being out of season – finishing a warm wooly cardigan just as spring arrives, or a little linen tank in November.

  11. There IS something oh-so-tempting about Carbeth that sucks you into wanting to make it! Probably several things to be honest, it really is an adorable design. The simplicity of the shaping and the slightly retro look of the roll neck collar really called out to me. So I knitted it for my daughter, thereby gaining all the satisfaction of making it, without the difficulties of actually wearing/styling it. Because I personally think it looks its best exactly as Kate designed it, ie. really quite cropped and oversized, I wouldn’t make it for myself, as it would require extensive modifications. Granted, a cardi version could potentially see more wear, but I’m not convinced. Oh, and apropos the other commenters suggestions, Kate mentioned somewhere, possibly instagram, that the shaping for this design ONLY works at a large gauge, something EZ talked about in regard to her “Hurry Up” sweater as well, as a mystery of knitting mathematics… 🙂

    • Hi Diane, I agree absolutely with this. I like your daughter solution. (I have used that one myself on many occasions.) And I think you are right about the math – even if you could do it for a smaller gauge, it wouldn’t hang right.

  12. The only reason I’m knitting a carbeth N is that I have yarn, in stash. From a previously frogged project which was knit from a previously frogged yarn, and if it is remotely wearable, I will wear it. I think mm it’s one of those things that I want to knit. Had I not had the yarn, I certainly wouldn’t be knitting it, and I’m still not sure but it is a fast knit.

    Knit Cahal. It is stunning and different and I love it and want someone I know to knit it.

    • I love the way you keep recycling yarn, Susan. Waste not, want not! You will also get more use out of Carbeth with the cold winters you have, than I will here in Southern England. And thanks for the vote for Cahal; I am leaning heavily towards knitting it for me – it really is different, isn’t it?

  13. Sorry to hear you’re still under the weather. I took 4 weeks to get over the flu, just sayin’. Hang in there.

    I don’t like Carbeth. There. I said it. I don’t find it remotely flattering. I like both of your other choices though, particularly Linda’s Cahal. Love the standing collar and the flexibility this type of garment gives.

      • It’s a good thing I don’t say what I mean, LOL! I’ve been KonMari’ing my wardrobe, and a wonderful chunky knit sweater was felled in the cull. Finer knits are just that much more flattering, and even thicker cables which you know I’m in love with. Just the chunky knits, ugh…

        Today I finally washed “our” Soumak wrap. What a difference a good soaking in Eucalan made. It might see some wear now, considering it’s still -10C outside.

        I still have moments of utter fatigue from the flu, and it’s been nearly 8 weeks now. You just need to give yourself more time.

  14. Just catching up on blogs after a week away at EYF where I have to say, I saw several Kiragamis and am smitten – the texture is really quite amazing. It would look incredible in Buachaille. So I too am torn between doing a Carbeth cardigan or casting on the Kiragami although I shall probably do both someday as I have potentially separate yarn for each in stash. I did knit the first Carbeth sweater, made it a bit longer but in retrospect don’t like the superwash yarn I used for part of it, so it’s become more of a wear-around-the-house garment. I don’t find it too warm, but then our house is always too cold.
    Hope by now you’ve recovered – this winter has been awful for colds. I’m on my third now of the season and fed up with it all!
    P.S. Took the 3D knitting course with Olga at EYF on your recommendation and loved it. She was a great instructor and I left feeling completely inspired and excited.

    • I am so pleased that you liked Olga’s course! I really enjoyed the class which I took with her. She is very sweet and very creative and has an interesting style. Also glad to hear that Kirigamis spotted in the wild live up to the promise of the project page. I am pretty sure I will be knitting that one soon. At the moment, I am not knitting at all as I struggle to recover from this hideaous flu-monster. Six weeks now! I am clearly on the mend, however, and expect to be back to my old self before long.

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