Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sweater for my husband

Early on in my knitting I made a mistake, one that is common to many newbie knitters. I tried to knit an adult sweater as my second project. Ever.

During my first project, the requisite first-knitting-project-ever-scarf, I figured out the knit stitch, the purl stitch and achieved a reasonably even gauge. So I thought I was ready to move on to something bigger, and better. I had a faux confidence that outmatched my true abilities.

With my boyfriend in tow, I went to The Yarn Co. on Manhattan's upper west side, and in one afternoon spent more money on yarn and a pattern book than I had on food for the entire month. We went home, a few days later he flew back to Wisconsin and I was left in my apartment in NYC with a bag full of yarn (which, aside from my laptop, was the most expensive thing in my apartment), a pattern, and my needles. I dutifully cast on and tried to knit up the sweater.

The pattern was perfect for a beginner but in hindsight I didn't have the skills to finish that sweater. I didn't know anything about yarn and it's many personalities. I didn't know what blocking was, how to seam a garment, why shaping was important, how to bind off stitches, nor did I understand the supreme importance of achieving gauge. Those skills came piecemeal over the following years. And once our wedding plans were underway, and my move back to WI began, the un-finished sweater and yarn were packed up and put away. It went with us to our housing co-op, it went with us to Paris, it was with us during various home renovations. It hid in a plastic bag in a box in our bedroom closet as our family grew from two people to five.

Every now and again my husband would let a sarcastic comment slip. Usually something about my amazing knitting, but where was his sweater? Yes, he told me, the one I started in 2003. Yes, he assured me, the one that was sitting in a bag in a box in a closet. Yes, the one he was certain wouldn't fit him anymore, even if I did manage to finish it. And I started to feel really bad about it. That feeling prompted me to alternate: between pretending the project didn't exist anymore, and really wanting to drag it out and just finish it.

When I started my stash challenge I re-discovered the really nice yarn I bought oh-so-long-ago, the yarn that was destined to be his sweater. For not knowing anything about knitting at the time I picked out super nice sweater yarn! And I couldn't bring myself to re-use the skeins for a different project (every time I looked at it I saw him staring back at me) and so I decided to just start again. I decided to knit a new sweater for my husband.

I toured ravelry for a time and happened upon designs by Jared Flood, of
Brooklyn Tweed. They are incredible - one of the best designers of knitwear, especially mens' knitwear, around these days. So I unfurled one skein, wound it up into a ball, and cast on for cobblestone. My husband really likes the pattern, and there are a handful of other sweaters knit up in this particular yarn so I have an idea of what the end product will look like. It will suit him and his personality quite well.

I'm about 8 inches up from the waist and the project is moving along. I know I will run into difficulty when I hit the sleeves, but it won't be insurmountable. I now know things about gauge, shaping, binding off, casting on, and knitting in the round. That's not to say I always get them right, but I have the skills and the confidence to move on with a sweater in a way I didn't before. I know that I can finish this sweater.

I wish that I could speak of this sweater as a metaphor for larger lessons in life - but none are coming to mind at the moment. I know that I've always been the kind of person to bite of more that I can chew. But I muddle through and usually wind up with something to show for my efforts. And maybe this sweater is showing me that while I still tend to reach beyond, I am catching up with myself. Through life with my husband, our children and graduate school, I've learned patience; I've become a more patient person than I thought I could ever be. I've learned that there is time to accomplish dreams, but there are skills to be mastered along the way. And I've learned that if I slow down, just a little, I will enjoy the scenery more, and our destination is much the sweeter for having taken our time getting there.

This piece will be for him; for my husband. It has been a long wait my dear, I know. But I think you'll find it was worth the wait.


Rebekah said...

Good luck finishing this and good for you for keeping at it and not giving up!

Little C and Little J said...

I love this story. So sweet, you can spin quite a yarn. D is a lucky guy.