The “Sadness” Sweater

The first time I met “Sadness” was not in the movie, Inside Out. It was inside a Disney Store. We took a family excursion for costumes, or something, and I took a detour through the mugs. My Husband has a great mug with sleepy Mickey Mouse lamenting mornings and I wanted something similar. Well, I didn’t find it. Instead, I found a little blue mug that looked like it was set upside-down when, in fact, it was right side up. It had a worried little blue figure on it saying, “One of those days.” I had no idea what the mug referenced (the movie hadn’t come out yet) but I knew it spoke to me and I needed it. When the movie finally came out and I got to see the personality associated with my new favorite mug, I was convinced kismet brought us together.


I love Sadness. She reminds me of myself when I was younger. I cried a lot. Like, a lot. I was painfully shy and would have preferred being lost in the crowd except for the fact that I was taller than every other child in my class, and I have an identical twin sister who preferred a less reserved existence. I can identify, a lot, with Sadness but that doesn’t mean I am sad. My default setting is Happy & Bright.  I like being happy. I like working my own unique magic. I like being the best, most comforting, homecoming kind of hug you’ll ever experience. And I couldn’t be any of that without understanding Sadness. So, to honor my new little blue friend, I decided to make a sweater.

I started with the yarn. I went in search of a light blue yarn that would be a nice homage to Sadness. I hoped for nothing smaller than DK, though worsted would have been preferred. I lucked out when a friend was destashing and I scored nearly two bags (19 skeins) of Thistle by Louisa Harding Yarns in Aqua. It’s an Aran weight yarn made of 60/40 Merino wool/alpaca. It is very soft and fluffy, with a beautiful drape, and slight halo on the fabric. It’s like petting a puppy, it’s so soft. Like, wow.

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Once I had the perfect yarn, I was on the search for the perfect pattern. I created an active search on Ravelry for a knit Aran-weight pullover with a turtleneck. I found a few candidates but the winner was Laura Aylor’s Elliewood. It’s a tunic-style pullover with a full turtleneck, a kangaroo pocket with a lighter weight lining, and thumb holes on the sleeves. It had everything I wanted, and more. It was simplistic with its thick ribbed hems and turtleneck, complimented by a basic stockinette body. The kangaroo pouch was almost a deal breaker because Sadness didn’t have a pouch in the movie. But, I thought it added an element of reality to my homage. What’s the most comfortable item of clothing in my closet? A hoodie. What’s the best feature? The kangaroo pocket. Was I going to let my need for authenticity cloud my judgement? No. The sweater had kangaroo pockets, and BONUS thumb holes in the sleeves. This pattern was presented to me as a neat little gift and I said, “Thanks!”

The sweater is worked from the top down. Saddle shoulders anchor it in place, and I am eternally thankful to Ms. Aylor for this feature. Raglan, a very popular sleeve shape to make on top-down styles, can slide forward or backwards on me, and I was concerned about the large neck opening for the turtleneck. But, the saddle shoulder creates less of a forgiving division between the shoulder and sleeve than the raglan. It’s made by creating a piece of fabric the same width and length as the shoulder, increasing the body stitches on either side of this strip of fabric so the body is joined perpendicular to the shoulder. It’s very fascinating to see. From there, the sleeves grow to the fullest they’re going to be before they get put on waste yarn in favor of finishing the body.

The body is worked in the round until the beginning of the kangaroo pocket when we revisit back-and-forth knitting to create the hole for the pocket lining. During this time, a little shaping in the back is added to allow for some butt curvature while the decreases in the front form the hole where the kangaroo pocket will lay. The kangaroo pocket is worked in two more parts: the outer flap and the inner lining, which grafts to the body in the hole created by the decreases. After finishing the Main Color body work, I switched to the DK yarn I chose for the pocket lining. I picked up all the required stitches along the edges of the pocket and grafted each knit row to the body. When that was done, I attached the top flap to the body using the same principal as a 3-needle bind-off, except the stitches are kept live. It’s a rather genius way of creating a pocket without a whole lot of fuss. I love that the pocket lining is made in a lighter weight yarn because it takes out some of the bulk that could easily accumulate behind the pocket.

I chose to make my pocket lining with a yarn I already had on hand: Lorna’s Laces Honor in the color Ballet. It’s a 70/30 Alpaca/Silk blend in lightly blended shades of pink and blue that form an occasional purple when they meet. I had originally purchased this yarn from a Craftsy sale, and I used it to make a toddler’s hooded sweater a few years ago. The pink, blue, and purple hues of the color reminded me of the other Inside Out travel companion, Bing Bong, and the complimentary alpaca allowed the lining to blend in with the feel of the rest of the sweater. I thought a pocket full of Bing Bong would be the perfect way to brighten up any sad day, and I was right. I love having my pocket full of Bing Bong.

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Everything worked up really quickly after the pocket. The body only had the hem ribbing to finish, while the sleeves were just a simple matter of following some light shaping, and figuring out how long those sleeves were really going to be. I measured my long arms to see where I wanted my sleeves to end and added 1.5″ to the wrist length before starting the thumb holes.

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The final part of the sweater is the turtleneck. Now, this isn’t any regular turtleneck. At the fold-over mark, there is a little split in one of the neck ribs which creates an extra triangle of ribbing that allows the neck to flare out instead of fold straight over and down.

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It gives the illusion of a flouncy cowl neck while still remaining close like a turtleneck. It’s a very nice, decorative feature, especially for anyone who can’t handle that much fabric so close to the neck. It also, gets to be placed at the knitter’s discretion: right, left, wherever, just pick a spot and go for it.  I would definitely knit this sweater as a gift to give, and I would encourage all my friends to buy the pattern and knit it themselves. I am absolutely in love with my new sweater!

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I first conceived the idea of a “Sadness” sweater as something that would make me happy. I had no idea it would have ended up this splendid. There’s always a little give and take that goes along with creative ideal versus practical application and I was expecting a lot more resistance to the eventual masterpiece I have before me. My experience is that things aren’t always so easy. Full disclosure: this has not been a quick process. I bought the yarn a year-and-a-half ago and discovered the pattern a few months before starting the project. I only bought the pattern back in January when I knew I was absolutely ready to start the project–like, within days of casting on. Also, I finished my Sadness Sweater  over a month ago and I’ve only now gotten around to writing about it. I just wasn’t having any of it. I was busy making pink hats for the resistance, and fulfilling the dreams of my children. But, those are different posts.

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