There are only so many crafting hours in a lifetime. Only so many things that can be made, and when you have a young child that feels like even less things. Although, on that particular note, it is at least great fun to have someone small to dress up in home made items, knitted and sewn. Mine is at that awkward stage when she knows if she likes something or not, but pretty much only after I have completed it. I ask her beforehand about the pattern/shape, colour/material, whether it’s knit or sewn I get her opinion. When faced with the completed item, however, anything can happen.
My mother is a better bet luckily. Mine got fed up of waiting for me to offer to knit her another jumper. I made her last one in 2011. She offered to buy the yarn but could I please knit her another jumper this winter. Okay Ma, you can jump my project queue.
Mum is hypercritical. She loves handmade things, she admires my work, but she is perfectly happy to notice and point out any errors. Planning is important. I went through a number of patterns, trying to find the perfect one. It had to be chunky, having a jumper thrust itself into my knitting schedule meant it had to be reasonably fast to knit, as fast as sweaters can be anyway. Mum likes cables, but her last jumper had pretty prominent cables, so it had to be slightly different. The red and grey yarn worked really well with the pattern, neither too overwhelming for the other.
We went with this one in the end. A couple of modifications though, the garter stitch edging was a little stiff for my mum’s tastes so we altered it to ribbing. It helped to have ribbing on the neckline as a nice big snug neck was in order and it’s always nice on the bottom as it pulls the garment in a little. The other amendment was to make it a little longer. On the model it ends around the top of the hip on the picture of the sleeved version. The bottom of the hip, I find, is much more flattering on those with a not so flat stomach, more like the length of the red jumper above. So we decided we would make it 2-3 inches longer.
I wanted to get mum some nice squishy superwash merino yarn. I would have been more than happy to contribute towards the costs, as it is a bit expensive compared to acrylic and mum is not a knitter. It is always hard to look at the costs for handmade products, you compare it to a retail product and it looks ridiculous. But for me it’s so nice to knit with a lovely yarn, a good quality one will also wear much better, some cheaper yarns pill so quickly. So the hours you spend knitting should be as enjoyable as you can afford and the item should last longer than it took to knit it, that’s for sure. Unfortunately we were quite sure what we wanted and that was a chunky purple yarn that had colour changes and could go in the washing machine and it was not available in anything other than acrylic. The yarn of choice became clear as James C Brett Marble Chunky.
I started knitting the jumper in November and went as quickly as possible, I wanted to get it done in time to make some Christmas presents. The only trouble was that it was looking a bit big, quite wide and definitely quite long. I finished the back piece and put it up against mum who just laughed and the length and called it a dress. But at that point I still wasn’t sure if it wasn’t just looking a little big as it was a baggier design and it was hard to hold the back up and the ribbing out and get a real idea. So I knit the front too. Hmm, asking for trouble I think. So I finished the front, clipped it all together onto mum and decided we had definitely made a dress. Mum would have happily worn the dress but not nearly as often. So I bit the bullet and decided that I would rip it back and take the extra 2.5 inches out of the top section of the front and back stocking stitch. I knit the two sleeves and then put the jumper aside for after Christmas.
Anyone reading this who has made any crafts at all, must be familiar with this process. The knitting/sewing/crocheted item has gone wrong, you have time and emotion invested in it and you feel really close to the project. When it goes wrong and you just can’t face it right now, the item has to go into a timeout. I like to think of it as thinking about what it has done wrong and it’s allowed to come back out when it’s ready to say sorry. In reality, it is about getting some distance from the problem and not feeling quite so much like it’s doing the work twice. Or sometimes it is giving the brain a chance to look at whatever the problem is from a different angle. In the end the jumper came back out in the middle of January. It didn’t take that long either to rip it back a bit and knit them both up again. Chunky is so beautifully fast and it was quick to sew up too. I think handsewing parts of some items made with fabric has given me an appreciation for handsewing knitted seams. They go a lot quicker and it is even easier to make them look beautiful.
I was not looking forward to blocking it. As it was made of acrylic the blocking process wasn’t entirely necessary, I wasn’t going to steam block it until I was sure it fit mum and I didn’t really think that we would need to do that anyway. But I did want to give it a wash, I always do with items that I’ve knitted as that yarn would have been through my fingers, in and out of bags, near the dogs and I will undoubtedly have dropped the ball of yarn on the floor on numerous occasions. That jumper is going to need a wash. It was big and that was going to make it very wet, so I put it off for nearly 3 weeks. Ridiculous. Then I finally got around to it. I washed it in the sink and let it drain in the bath for the afternoon, gave it a few squeezes and then rolled it up in a towel and gave it a good squish around. Lastly I took it and laid it out on the spare bed on top of another, dry towel. I did not peg it out or pin it to anything to dry in shape, it’s a garment with minimal shaping and the acrylic would make it bound anyway. It took a couple of days to dry as it was still hoarding a fair amount of water, but it got there.
Mum was pretty happy with it and grateful for the time I spent, which is why she is a good recipient of a handmade item. Both optimistically and yet negatively she did find it necessary to point out that it was unlikely to get a lot of use this winter. But as the other jumper has lasted 6 years I’m not feeing too guilty about it not getting much use right now, it’s time will come.