While the temps are pushing 100 and the fires are raging here in SoCal, I thought I would regale you all with my very first ever knitted projects — sweaters.
Yes, I know that most of us start off with something simple like a scarf (I think I might have knitted something that resembled one in high school, but it was more like a long series of really ugly acrylic yarn swatches sewn together that never ever made it out of the house. In fact, it was one of the reasons why I really hated knitting and took up crochet instead). But for my first real ‘project’ several years later, I just jumped in head first. I had a knitting book by my side to tell me how to knit, purl, increase and decrease and some yarn.
It began when I was living in Kosice, a town in eastern Slovakia teaching English. For some reason I had thought to bring my crochet hooks (had, by then made 3 or 4 sweaters, so I knew how to construct one and some really basic design principles). I also brought a book about knitting which my next-door neighbor, Brian, eventually put to good use, following the basics of knitting enough to make his own sweater.
When I first got to Kosice I noticed that every single woman was decked out in handmade sweaters with really rich colors in absolutely beautiful yarns. Even back then (1990) in the States, yarn was pricey, so I was curious to find out the source of these gorgeous yarns. Turns out, they were everywhere — yarn shops, textile stores, department stores. Knitting was a basic part of life for all the women I met, and the latest issue of ‘Rebecca’ was a prize that was passed around circles of friends like a treasured heirloom (because, being a foreign magazine, it cost a lot to purchase it).
Being a crocheter, I immediately headed out to the yarn store, picked up some light green acrylic/wool and started in on a sweater. It took a while, but within a couple of months, I had a new light green sweater that has seen a lot of use throughout the years. (And, having stretched a bit, still accommodates my changing shape..)
The next project I wanted to do was a crocheted sweater with a lot of color work. I found a snowflake pattern somewhere, adapted it, and started in on the sweater. I hated it. It was bulky and so very 1970’s I wanted to scream. There was no other course of action except…
So, using my yarn from the snowflake disaster, I drafted up a simple pattern of stick figure boys and girls, adapted a colorwork pattern from the knitting book I had and came up with this…
First Sweater Detail
A fair-isle sweater of sorts with drop sleeves. I had somehow managed to figure out some very basic neck-shaping and arm increases as well. Needless to say, this sweater has gotten a lot of use and love over the years (hence the odd shape, but 16 years of use will do that to anything.)
After this project, I was totally into knitting sweaters (seeing as I was then living in a place where it was cold enough to wear them). My next project was a cotton sweater in moss stitch with slightly kimono-like sleeve shaping (a whim that works out okay when it’s being worn) and easter-like pastel colors.
Easter Sweater Detail
The desire to knit sweaters waned for a year or so once I moved to Florida, but in grad school I figured knitting would help to keep me sane, so, after discovering larger needles (I worked mostly on 6 and 9) I made up these two sweaters really quickly…
Nordic Sweater Detail
Greek Tile Sweater
Greek Tile Sweater Detail
Nowadays these sweaters tend to live in my cedar chest, it being too hot in LA except for a few months in winter to pull them out. The first two sweaters come out about once a year, and the Nordic sweater sees a few days each year since it is fairly meshy having been made on larger needles. The Greek Tile sweater accidentally found its way into my dark laundry 10 years ago, got slightly felted and I have yet to find a way to reuse it or bring myself to cut into it.
All of the sweaters were made before I knew anything about seaming — it was the joy of knitting and putting something together that inspired me. Even though I am excited to be learning real finishing techniques, part of me longs for the days when I was able to just slap a few pieces together and have something to wear. Now most of the sweaters I have knitted are sitting in the bottom of my knitting basket waiting to be ‘properly seamed’.
Maybe one day I’ll find joy in that part of the process too!
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