I started a terrifying knitting project last night.
It came about through a combination of factors. Factor one was the latest round of Nerdopolis on Ravelry. One of the challenges this month is to use a technique or pattern that scares us, whether that’s colorwork or enterlac or (eep!) steeking. But I’ve kind of tried everything, and none of it really scares me anymore. That’s one thing I can say for my online community, they are total enablers and get everyone stepping outside their comfort zone all the time. But that left me without a project idea.
Factor two was the weather.
Because yay, the weather’s finally turned! And brought us our first of what the weather service promises is many nor’easters for this winter. But we still had all our windows open. So when I went upstairs last night to get on the computer, I was FREEZING. So I went for my comfort warm, which is a heavy sweater my Aunt Millie made and gave me many moons ago. It’s heavy and cuddly, a lot like a wearable blanket, and the last time I wore it, it was just enough too big for me to wrap up in.
It’s been a while since I wore it.
It’s just way too big on me now. But I love it so much. The pattern on it is the sequence of the seasons done in beautiful cables, with flowers in spring and apples in the summer, with clouds in the sky and a couple of different kinds of trees. [ETA: I found the pattern! It’s called Enchanted Forest and originally came out in 1992! No wonder I couldn’t find it.]
I just love it, but it’s just not practical to wear anymore. But what could I do with it? I can’t really downsize it without losing the mural quality of it. I certainly didn’t want to donate it. It’s the only knitted project from her I own. She’s a world class quilter, and I have several small quilt pieces from her, but I don’t quilt, I knit, so this is the one piece of hers I have that I share an experience with. Plus it’s cuddled me through some tough times, and I don’t want to lose that.
The blanket imagery kept sticking with me, though.
Well, why not? I could take of the collar, the button bands and the sleeves, rip back the bottom ribbing, fill in and seam up the armholes and turn it into the center panel for a really nice afghan. Add a couple of texture panels to make it blanket width, put a border on it, and boom, blanket.
My heart instantly started pounding.
What was I even thinking, considering dismantling something handknit? Handknits are sacred! And it was fine as it was. Who cared that it fell off my shoulders and got in the way of my keyboard, right? But I know I would rather something I made be used, and this wasn’t getting used very much. So I did what I always do when I have a moral dilemma.
I called my mother.
“I doubt she remembers or cares at this point, honey.” Yeah, but. But. BUT! *gaspflail*
I decided to do it.
Never one to tread softly, I got started taking it apart. Just to see how it went. Before I even got off the phone with Mom.
The interesting thing about taking apart someone else’s handwork is you learn a lot about them as a crafter. What I learned last night is that my aunt is VERY good at weaving in ends. In that I couldn’t find them. Anywhere. I picked and pulled and squinted and finally had to make a cut to get the collar started. Then I started to find them, the double strands separated and carefully woven under stitches and over rows. I can’t weave my ends in that cleanly. I need to learn. Once I got the collar off, I unraveled it and wound the yarn up on my niddy noddy to skein it for washing. I’m not sure how she does her moss stitch, but this sucker refused to be unraveled from the working end. I had to go back and pick out the cast off edge to get it to come apart. Now I’m curious if my moss stitch does the same thing. Or maybe it’s just the yarn. But as I was taking it apart, I was thinking about her, and about how her hands maintained the tension to knit such thick yarn so evenly, how heavy it must have been making it, wondering what kinds of needles she used (I can’t imagine doing such a heavy project on straights, but I don’t know if she shares Mom’s bias against circular needles.) It was like I had a piece of her in my hands. But the more I ripped, the more excited I got. I wasn’t destroying it. I was making it into something new and beautiful in her honor.
I stayed up past midnight.
I need to do some fiber tests to find out what the yarn is. It looks and feels like acrylic, but knowing Millie, it seems unlikely that she wouldn’t use yarn that was at least partly wool. By dismantling the sleeves, I should have plenty of yarn to fill in the armholes. It will just be the trick of picking up the right number of stitches to make the moss stitch pattern invisible. Then I want to do two long panels of Celtic cable, maybe in red, and four blocks of the different trees. Then I’ll piece all of that, pick up a million stitches and knit a border on it (or learn how to do a knitted-on border). This has gone from a quicky project into a major one.
In the meantime, Hurricane Joaquin is wrapping stormy cold arms around us, and I’m wishing I had something warm to wrap up in. Too bad I took my sweater apart…