A Penguin Sweater

My latest knitting project is the Humboldt Sweater from Anna Maltz’s incredible book of knitting patterns, Penguin. As soon as I first laid eyes on this book I was in love! Every project is unique and interesting. I immediately coveted a Humboldt of my own and got to work finding some local Kiwi wool.


NZ has a lot of sheep. I was on the plane recently and during an idle moment took part in the quiz that they play on the inflight TV screens. I learned that we have roughly six sheep per person (30 million sheep). I’ve been on a real NZ-made kick lately, seeking out shoes and knitwear that’s been made locally. It made sense that I should also find local knitting yarn given the high ruminant population around here! Pretty quickly I found Ashford Tekapo, a hardworking yarn that’s been around for ages and is named for the very beautiful Lake Tekapo. Colour choice was extremely tricky and a lot of dithering took place before I settled on the colours that Anna used in her sample, white and charcoal. Not very original! But why mess with perfection?!



Humboldt is named for a type of penguin, and given the fact that I saw a Little Blue Penguin while swimming at this beach last summer (smallest penguin in the world!) it was a good excuse to take photos here. Also, a nice day for a walk.


Humboldt features a technique called Marlisle. It’s a cross between marled and Fair Isle. Two yarn weights/colours are held together the majority of the time, and occasionally only the heavier yarn is used, in this case white, to create the pattern 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 love the way that this sweater holds its shape. I think that this thick fabric works especially well in a cropped, boxy design like this.



For now I’m wearing it over jeans and a Marthe top, but am seeking ideas for an appropriate dress pattern to go under it. I like the idea of a gathered skirt coming out from underneath and I might do another Simplicity 1366 bodice with a gathered skirt in some sort of winter weight fabric. I am finding winter dress-wearing quite tricky as I refuse to wear a slip and skirts keep sticking to my tights! I should probably just get over my slip phobia and get on with it 🙂

Anybody else knitting at the moment? Any exciting projects on the go?




  1. Fabulous jersey – love the texture. What about a merino slip? I made one extending a tank lengthwise that I wear under tunics – it’s cosy for winter and don’t get the static that normally happens to me with some fabrics.

  2. Perfection indeed! I recently started knitting Little Wave by Gudrun Johnston and I’ve had to frog it a few times already 😦 I have discovered that my mind is very far from the zen like state needed to fully concentrate on the pattern. It’s a good exercise though. I’m in admiration of your jersey!

  3. Its really cute Bella! I love the marlisle, its such a nice subtle texture. I have this pattern book too, I’m going to knit the penguin toy for my friend’s soon to be born baby. I second the idea of a longline knit tank top as a slip, I have cotton and merino ones and they do the job ok.

  4. This looks amazing & I want one for me! My knitting is a very simple garter stitch baby blanket for my youngest daughter’s teacher. I’m just over half way… ball number 6!

    1. Gosh sounds like it’ll be an amazing blanket once it’s all finished! I really love garter stitch and this jersey made me appreciate its lovely squishyness all the more.

  5. you mentioned looking out for nz wool and i wondered whether you had listened to truly myrtles podcast before as she uses lots of locally resourced wool.

    1. I have heard about the Truly Myrtle podcast but I haven’t listened to it yet, I must tune in. I went to Woolfest in Auckland recently where there were lots of great kiwi yarn people. Seems like there is a thriving community.

  6. Great sweater!! I have loved penguins ever since I went to NZ and saw them. I saw a pair of tufted penguins on a beach playing in the surf together. I have hardly ever seen a such clearly affectionate pair of animals. They were tottering around with their wings around each other and rubbing beaks. I love them!!

  7. Bella, it really is utterly fabulous! I love how you’ve styled it, especially after our IG convo regarding my love for it, but not for cropped sweaters. Inspired styling indeed! I find myself yearning for one all of my own 🙂

  8. Why mess with perfection indeed! It’s a stunning make. I have a secret place for jealousy in my mind reserved specifically for people who can knit like this – you’ve just been added 😉

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