Friday, November 21, 2014

The Sweater that started it all!

My mom was a very talented and prolific knitter. I don't really remember a time at home when she didn't have needles in her hands or some hand knit sweater on her back. She used to tell me how she knit through all of her college lectures and how she knit my dad a sweater while they were dating. We often wore mother daughter sweaters that itched like CRAZY and were almost always made of some sort of mohair blend in a strange 70's/80's brownish color way. The fact that there is no photographic evidence of this is odd to me but I'm sure that at the time I made a point of avoiding cameras while we were wearing them, after all they almost always had a puffed sleeve and being that I am very broad of shoulder means they didn't look that awesome on me!

This photo is a pretty good representation of a lot of my memories of her.  Knitting everything on long straight aluminum needles. And yes I had to take a photo of a photo because that's how old I am!!

These two are the only photos I could find of me wearing hand knit sweaters made by her. This seems insane in this day and age where there are a thousand photos of EVERYTHING, but that's the way things go. And can you see that to take the 'selfies' above I had to use a long cable attached to my camera on a tripod. A manual camera, with FILM in it. I don't think my son will ever really know what film is! But I digress. 

This sweater in particular is extremely special to me. I still have it tucked away in my cedar chest. My mom made it for me when I was a junior in High School. As you can see it's an incredibly intricate pattern. Even the background stitches over the ENTIRE sweater are basket weave! This is a 40" chest people, that's a lot of switching from knit to purl. The most insane part of all of this is that even though I lived with this woman I never saw her knit a single stitch of this sweater. It just appeared on my bed one day folded in all it's immaculately new glory. How she managed that I can not tell you. Nor can she tell me, since she passed away 20 years ago,  just a few years after this sweater was knit and those 'selfies' were taken. 

I'm pretty sure that I was drawn to really learn how to knit by some need to connect to her. I didn't learn for real until I was out of college and working for a children's publishing company. My mom had tried to teach me a million times but it ever really took. Then as a 28 year old working at my publishing job the call went out for test knitters for our new Knitting book. I told the editor that I was a knitting novice and that I hadn't held needles since I was 7 or so, but the magical thing was that when I picked them up again and started knitting, it clicked. Somewhere deep in my brain was the knowledge my mother had given me years ago. It was still there and I haven't put the needles down since that day! I feel connected to her whenever I knit and it almost feels like she's knitting with me. 

Fast forward to this  year. I kept wanting to knit a cable sweater that would remind me of her, but be one I could actually wear now. Somehow that 40" chest seems outrageously humongous now! How I ever wore it then is a mystery. Ahhh the early 90's when girls wore enough clothing for 3 people instead of barely enough for one. 

I purchased yarn and pattern for Burrard thinking it would fit the bill nicely. I cast on last JANUARY!!!!!!! and started knitting away. I got the sleeves done in no time. Then on to the back where I got stalled for a few weeks because I mis-crossed a cable and didn't have the bravery I needed to drop down those stitches to fix it. My best knitting friend P helped me get over my fear while she was visiting for Stitches West. Then I moved on to the fronts and halfway through the first one I bottomed out. It went in a bag for the entire summer while I happily knit socks and hats and other small mindless items. 

This Fall when I picked it back up I realized I was no longer intimidated by it. I could anticipate the cable crosses and I could sense when a mistake was about to happen before it happened. And then ***Poof*** it was finished! 

It still needs buttons and a serious photo shoot outside on a bright day since this color is impossible to photograph, but there it is. My 21st century rendition of the cabled sweater my mom made for me. I think putting it on will feel like a warm hug and I will pretend it's a hug from her. Thanks mom for teaching me that you can do wonderfully amazing things will a ball of string and a couple of sticks!