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Breaking News: Haunted Sweater Seizes Area Woman

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Dear Kay,
Holy cow, I think my mom’s sweater is haunted!
Get this: yesterday, while wearing the cabled fisherman’s sweater my mom made 30 years ago–back when she was, you know, alive–I found myself strangely drawn to the top shelf of my closet, that netherland where unfinished objects marinate until they either decay, spontaneously unravel, or otherwise meet some dismal fate. At a time of day when I usually scramble around fixing dinner, I found myself in my chair–the chair where I do my best knitting, that chair that comes into play when I’m SERIOUS about something–with a project that I haven’t visited since preblogstoric days.
I mean it–without a blink, I sat down with this project and almost failed to feed my family, just like my mom used to do. I haven’t given this sweater a thought since I stuffed it in a plastic bag and swore it off forever. It’s the mighty, mysterious mom force that led me back to it, I’m telling you.
How to Carbon Date Your Knitting
I don’t even remember when I started this thing, Kim Hargreaves’s Pearl from Rowan 32–one of the great Rowans.
Looking at this piece of wandering cables, I found myself wondering when I had started this thing. It is definitely preblogstoric, pre 2003. I do have a few clues that indicate just how clueless a knitter I was when I began this Pearl:
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Freaked-Out Chart Scratching. Should I check off each row, or make a little dash mark, or just cross out the whole damn line?
Also: Size Chosen: Large. Suggests long-standing fear of being perceived as slutty when seen wearing a high-necked cabled cardigan.
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Unfortunate Increases. What the heck kind of holes are those right in the middle of the back of this sweater? Shows complete lack of understanding that there might be some sort of increase other than a Make 1 By Picking Up The Strand Below.
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Use of Cable Needle. Operating without a clue about how to make a cable without a cable needle. I don’t know how I got past Row 2 on this thing, using a cable needle for every single shift.
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Stonehengelike Placement of Stitch Markers. What are these? And how did they get there? What is their mysterious message? Who did this?
I have to say, it’s kind of heartening to revisit a project that clearly was blowing my brains out, and to find that now I can crank two inches of it without clinging to the chart, without a cable needle, with a halfway decent increase that doesn’t leave a gaping hole in the middle of my knitting. It’s progress, I guess. This sweater, this woebegone UFO, is now fun. I am itching to get back to it, even as I write this.
Love,
Ann

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42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. 1st?!?!?!
    I hope one day I get good enough to be able to find old stuff and laugh at how bad it was. I’m still in the mistake and cover up phase… and religiously checking off every row.
    Can’t wait to see the finished sweater!

  2. Due to some room re-arranging and displacement of children’s toys to their now bigger (and formerly mine) room, I know have a little space in which to put a knitting chair. But I have yet to find the chair. I do feel like your shape is what I’m looking for and if I can’t put my feet up then it’s not a knitting chair. I will be scouring thrift stores till I succeed!

  3. Just the other day, I dug an Aran cardigan out of the cedar chest that I’d finished all but the buttons, back in my “Gauge? I don’t need no steenking gauge!” days, probably about 1993. It was so many miles too huge that thus far I’ve washed and deliberately shrunk it twice, and it’s *still* not down to the size I need. It was also done with a cable needle, many thousands of cable crossings, and never blocked, and all that good stuff. Oh, and I never sewed any buttons on it — not that it needs them; it’s so big it’s still wrapping like a kimono.
    But it is very warm, and our house is chilly, so if I can ever get it shrunk down to a decent size, it’ll make a good house sweater, at least! And then I can mock myself every time I wear it.
    Isn’t it fun finding ancient priceless knitting artifacts?

  4. That’s a handsome design; the travelling ribs look terrific. Hurry up, finish it! PS: the sweater your mother made is another good-looker, and yes, it fits you beautifully.

  5. Isn’t it amazing what five-plus years of maniacal knitting can teach us?

  6. Wow… My stomach is hurting right now from laughing so hard!!! That is hilarious :-) I particularly love the “stonehenge like stitchmarkers” LOL…. I am laughing WITH you, right? I’ve only been knitting for 3.5 years or so… but I would hate to revisit some of my early works!!!!

  7. It is wonderful to look back at where we were and see how far we’ve come in knitting and other areas of life, too.

  8. I’m still afraid to cable without a cable needle (or at least a dpn). Can’t wait to see the final projeck.

  9. Yay for ghostly knitting forces! I see your colour preferences haven’t changed since those prehistoric funny-increase times. This will be a great sweater to have in this never-ending winter!

  10. I once read in an Elizabeth Zimmerman book (can’t recall which one) that she often put a safety pin in her knitting when she picked up her work so that when the day was done she could see how much she’d done. Could that have been your m.o.?

  11. You are too funny! I admire your ability to pick this up after so many years and dive right in. I also suffer from “size issues” my clothes are perpetually too big and I once ruined a perfectly good handknit cardi by blocking it to hell and back when I was convinced that it was too small.

  12. Thank you for the funny story, and the inspiration to go dig out some UFO’s… It would be great to see if they are a piece of cake now… when I know that I pulled my hair out over some of them way back when!

  13. lol- knitting and archeology – you just know that kay would distress the heck out of it and pull it apart, to re-knit the whole thing as a slinky beach wrap. or something. (did i just say beach? wishful thinking.)

  14. Being able to pick something up like that and just go at it when it was challenging at one time is great! It’s even better than being able to find a ufo and just rip it and let go.

  15. You slut. ;)

  16. OK, smarties: how DO you knit cables without a cable needle? My husband is a freak for aran sweaters and I would like to oblige him without going crazy.

  17. Uh Ann,
    I wasn’t going to say anything about your slutty appearance in the high neck, form obscuring mom-sweater…..

  18. I so enjoyed learning your discovery of some “vintage” UFO. I, too, recently, dug up an anthropology exhibit…..a nearly completed short-sleeved sweater of a mystery yarn (no ball-bands). So typical of me. I stopped just short of the seaming stage, for fear that I would have to sew it up. I do remember purchasing the yarn, although not sure exactly what year…..it was shortly after Angel Hair opened in Green Hills, that much I know. Now I need to decide what to do with it…it’s too big for me now :) so I guess I’ll frog it, eventually.

  19. Dear Ann,
    I’m teling you, the “U” shaped cable needle is soooo good! Way better to me than all the other styles. I love using it so much (and I’d better, since I never got the hang of how to cable sans cable needle).
    Ah, the “Mom” energy, it’s a wonderful thing…so is that sweater pattern, with its vertical cables and diagonal lines.
    Knit on!
    LoveDiane

  20. That is so cool. Are you leaving in your wonky increases? I like it; it’s kind of like a time capsule of your knitting!

  21. Thank you! There is hope for me yet!
    Would love to learn to cable w/o a cable needle and w/o dropping a stitch.

  22. Ann,
    Thanks so much for this post, it was a particularly encouraging one. I’ve been knitting a year and just cast on for my first sock AND my first bit of cabling (you know, because one challenge is never enough) and I can’t even imagine how I would cable without the extra needle. I fully intend to learn eventually, though, the darn things are a pain! I’m loving the stitch markers – and glad that they elicited the comment above about Elizabeth Zimmerman’s safety pin trick. Another encouraging idea!
    Some day, I’ll have your wonderful skills!
    x
    Mendozy, Dublin, Ireland

  23. Gah! you made me laugh so hard – particularly the Stonehenge part – whew! I totally get the haunting part – I never feel closer to my mom or feel her more present then when I’m working on a project. Lots of mom’s handknits in my home. Just looked up Pearl on Ravelry – that’s going to be a beautiful cardi when completed. Can’t wait to see the finished product – pity that your family will have to fend for themselves until then…..

  24. May we see a picture of what your sweater will be?
    I tried to google Rowan Pearl 32…..
    Also, do you ever find going back to an ancient project or even long lost skein of wool, that the fibers feel old or dry? I have thought about relanolozing the fibers that could handle it.

  25. This post made me laugh as I have an unfinished versino of this exact sweater sitting my closet (somewhere). All I need to do is seam it and knit the neck. My last memory is that getting all those cables to match up nicely in seaming gave me a nervous breakdown and all I can think is that it must have been so traumatizing that I haven’t picked it up since? Maybe seeing one completed here will give me the courage to take a look at it again?

  26. FANTASTIC. Thank you for providing more of what I am looking for: mojo to get back to the unfinisheds, trust that they will be much easier to deal with now than they seemed when I put them down. Rationalization for keeping the o’s so very u.f. for so very long.

  27. May I say that I love your chair. I have a “telephone couch” (that’s crazy talk for chaise), but often I find myself longing for two arms.
    Also, I find it amazing that you finish big objects, like sweaters. Mine always get stuck in the half-way-done, now-I’m-bored, leave-it-in-a-bin until it’s mouldering phase.

  28. your twilight zone is an intersting

  29. Oh boo, now I’m missing my mom. I think I will channel her life force and cast on a knitted toy this evening when I get home, to heck with the other WIPs. She had already started making beautiful teddy bears before she died, and I bet she would have knit and sewn a constant stream of soft toys if she had lived long enough to see her grandchildren.

  30. This is hilarious. I love when I find old knitting and then just kind of stare at it and wonder what I was thinking!
    I totally agree about the cable needle thing, I don’t understand how I ever knit cables with a needle.
    I especially love your former marking of the chart technique.

  31. Hey I’m a size large just saying.
    LOL at your crop circle markers. I’m sure they were placed there by aliens.

  32. Really, what are the safety pins for?

  33. Ditto on the question about how to cable without a cable needle. How?
    And as for appearing slutty in a -necked cabled cardigan…too bad Janet Jackson wasn’t wearing a high-necked cabled cardigan during her Super Bowl wardrobe debacle a few years back…could have spared herself much embarrassment.

  34. OMG this is just too good!

  35. My fave is Rowan 28. I made my first sweater from it, AND it, too, has the stupid increase holes in it. Good times, good times!

  36. Please pass along your tricks to make an invisible increase. Patterns often specify a Make 1 but it leaves a hole. What do you experienced knitters do instead?

  37. Love the archeological expedition to your early-pre blogistoric age. Most impressive: you can understand your own notes, I write things down on the pattern and within a week can’t figure out what I was trying to remind myself.Looking forward to the FO.

  38. i meant to say your twilight zone
    is an interesting place to dwell
    google said you were a danger
    to my computer this morning

  39. thats so cool! My mom found the sweater (in her attic) i started knitting 22 years ago when i was clueless with a pair of needles and only 16. (i think it was started for a boyfriend) It was a Lopi and i had paid dearly for the yarn even then! It looks pretty good, all items to finish it are there….and it will be a fun project to finish

  40. Maybe the safety pins were a message to yourself, like “Buy a tall, narrow….pentagon shaped thing.” And if you can only just remember what it is, you can save the universe, or stop time, or create a magical yarn stash.
    I may be overthinking this.

  41. I can cable without a cable needle, increase without making holes, but I can’t knit up the Kim Hargreaves pattern I’ve had on the needles for the past two years. Coincidentally, I gave up on it for good last night and I’m trying to turn my bulky weight Rowan yarn into a Central Park Hoodie. Changing the gauge and number of stitches in the CPH pattern will be easier than figuring out that Hargreaves pattern!

  42. How do you make cables without a cable needle. I get so irritated when I used those things. A way of getting rid of them would be wonderful. I have so much to learn about knitting. I have crocheted for 66 years but knitting has not been with me that long. Have just gotten to it in the last couple of years after a long hiatus. I don’t challenge myself much yet. Just a big coward. I have been trying to work up the nerve to do sox. Have the needles, patterns, yarn and just can’t seem to make myself get started.