I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what compels a modern-day person to spend a significant chunk of change and time to knit a sweater that may or may not fit her when all is said and done. I mean, for $70 and 15 minutes I could pop in and out of Old Navy with two or three sweaters. Or order a virtually indestructible one from L.L. Bean.
But no. Not me.
I’m knitting an actual grown-up sweater. For real, as my niece likes to say, with much gusto. Last weekend I used my Christmas gift card to my local yarn store to buy seven skeins of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which will hopefully knit up into a Middlefield Pullover. It’s the cover sweater of New England Knits, which seemed like an easy-enough first attempt. (Well, technically it’s my second attempt at an adult-sized sweater, but I’m not going to talk about that. It is buried deep in the knitting basket until my chart reading ability improves.)
No chart reading necessary here, just lots of plain knits and purls in the round. A little boring, maybe, but good TV knitting. This is where I am after a weeks worth of knitting:
Technically, it is a week and two days worth of knitting – but I had to unravel five hours of knitting not once, but TWICE, because I managed to twist the thing so badly it turned into the shape of infinity. I have no idea how this happened, but it did. Twice. After that, it’s been more or less smooth sailing, though I do worry about whether it will actually fit me when I’m done. It will fit someone, but possibly not me. It’s difficult to decipher at the moment as there is considerable stretch in the ribbing panels that are in both the front and back. Fingers crossed.
Also, this picture isn’t a great representation of the color. The yarn reads as an amethyst-like purple, but up close there are lots of pink and blue flecks. And it’s ALPACA, so it is ridiculously soft and lovely. I did not set out to knit this sweater in alpaca, but it was the only yarn the shop had that was a reasonably good substitution in terms of gauge (as it was, I had to go down to a size 7 needle). I was not overly sad about this turn of events, to say the very least.
I will say that one of the things holding me back from a grown-up sweater – beyond technical skill – has been cost. It can easily run over $100 for even mediocre-quality sweater yarn, so I was thrilled to have a gift card to finance this venture. Plus, the yarn was 20% off, so even with the new set of Addi Turbo needles I bought this wound up being a fairly inexpensive project (as these things go, I mean). I’ve never used these needles before, favoring the bamboo ones, but I wanted to try these. They are definitely much smoother than anything else I’ve tried, and nice and pointy for picking up dropped stitches (ahem). But I don’t like that they click when I knit. Not as loudly as those old aluminum needles, but they still click. I have no idea why this sets my teeth on edge, but it does. And honestly, I’m such a slow knitter that nothing short of a knitting machine is going to help me knit much faster. I think I’ll return to my favored bamboo after this.
As to the why, I’m still thinking about it. It’s true that I come from a long line of knitters, but my grandmothers and great-grandmothers knit because they had to keep themselves and their families warm during the long, cold Maine winters. I guess it could be a kind of genetic memory, although I actually taught myself how to knit (which, the more I knit, explains a lot about my technique – or lack thereof). I don’t really know why owning a sweater I knit with my own two hands is so important to me, but it is. In the grand scheme of accomplishments, it’s hardly world peace. But maybe it is simply a goal that is obtainable, with a little bit of time and effort? All I really know is, it’s gotten to the point where if I don’t do some sort of handwork every day I become a very unpleasant person to be around. So, projects like this are practically community service. For the moment, that will have to be reason enough.