Tuesday, December 11, 2012

History in my hands

In mid-November I was contacted by a neighbor about making repairs to a few sweaters that she had.  She mentioned that they were a mix of ones she acquired and ones that her Grandmother had knit for her Grandfather before leaving Ireland for the United States.  An old sweater knit in Ireland?!  Could it really be a real fisherman's sweater?  I jumped at the chance.
She dropped them off and I spent the next few weeks getting to know them.  The construction was amazing, and so different on each one.  Two raglan sweaters, one saddle-shoulder, and one yoke cardigan from Iceland to round out the set. 
But that one on the top of the pile?  It stole my heart the moment I set my eyes on it.

I must sound a bit strange, going on and on about a sweater (and one that I just met no less!).  But this sweater!  It was made with patience, focus, talent, love and care.  I didn't find a single mistake in the patterning.  The cables and stitch definition are gorgeous.  It is unbelievable.  And it is old.  You can feel the years gone by when you hold this sweater.  It is substantial, measuring a mens XL/T, and probably weights 4 lbs.  That is a lot of wool folks.


And like all really good love affairs, I came away from my time with this sweater knowing more about myself (this time myself as a knitter).  I realized that I know my way around sweater construction and repair.  I know my way around bind-offs, cast-ons and sizing.  I know a thing or two about wool and I know that I have the confidence to dive into a project - even one that is not my own - and work with it.

Sadly the wool on the older sweaters is starting to deteriorate.  As with all organic materials they begin to break down over time, and I'm not too sure what can be done to slow or halt that process.  I suppose that you could seal the sweater in a display case and not expose it anymore to the elements.  But I don't think that is the life this sweater was made for.  It was made to be worn.  And worn, and worn, and worn.  This sweater was made to go out into the world and soak it up.

I've fixed up the sweaters, given them all a good (gentle, hand) washing and let them dry.  I wound up a few yards of the repair yarns for the owner to take with her.  I am sad to see them go, but it's time that they head home. 

I've grown as a knitter in the past few weeks and I think I have two old souls to thank: one of an Irish gentleman and the other his wife.