Saturday, October 28, 2006

Raising the Dead for Halloween

Imagine Mambocat wearing a long black robe, lighting dozens of candles, burning incense, and waving her hands around in the air ...

"Ominay yah-yah ... ignay knitabius ... oom-lah, voodoo, acrylicus .... wooly bully, wooly bully .... beneath the light of the moon, O Ancient Sweater, I command you to appear!"

What with it being Halloween and all, I decided to regale you with a Very Old Object that has been raised from the dead.

During the course of the repair work on Mom's house in New Orleans, what to my wondering eyes should appear from the depths of a closet but the very first sweater I ever knitted for her, way back a life and a half ago.

This is a sweater I knitted in Red Heart yarn from Woolworth's when I was about fifteen ... when the Really Big Things in my life were Elton John, Led Zeppelin, bicycling all over New Orleans, knitting maniacally and finally figuring out that boys were good for something besides bombarding with water balloons from way up in a treehouse.

I probably got the pattern from one of Mom's McCall's or Good Housekeeping magazines. I was very proud of this sweater at the time because (1.) it was my very first cabled sweater -- the only other cabled thing I had ever knitted was a small couch-pillow cover in a beguiling shade of 1970s Refrigerator Orange; (2.) I had to make fitting adjustments because Mom is well-endowed (3.) it actually fit her.

Mom has worn it as a house sweater for all these years, and finally asked me if I could fix the snags.

Looking at it 31 years later -- (yikes!) -- I find myself scrutinizing everything I did not know then, amazed that I somehow produced a sweater that fit, and also amazed that Mom wore it around the house and for dog-walking and to the grocery. It is a 1970s bathrobe-type wrap sweater with a shawl collar. At one point it had a knitted belt. The belt is long gone (no doubt a dog had something to do with this), but Mom still wears it around the house and garden.

You know somebody loves you when they will wear such a thing, and, like any good Southern Mom, she had the graciousness to wear it for things like walking the dogs and going to the grocery, so I could see her wearing it frequently, and therefore felt good about having made it. This is a talent so subtle in an excellent Mom that you also don't realize until many, many years later that you never actually saw her wear it to work, or church, or a PTA meeting, or anyplace where she had to look her very best, but she nonetheless wore it often enough, in appropriate circumstances, to let you know it was (and still is) appreciated.

Looking at it now, wow ... Way too loose gauge. I had absolutely no idea how to join the raglan sleeves to the body without gaping and unintentional (though consistent) holes which appear to be yarnovers but are not. Not so bad on the picking up of stitches for the front bands and neck, but sloppy decreases, and sloppy execution of the shawl collar, and yucky joining if you turn it inside out and look at the seams. No concept of reversing the direction of the cables on either side of the center to achieve symmetry, or to make them work with the decreases. Cables are crossed way too far apart -- I seem to remember thinking that all those cable-crossings would be a real pain in the arse and I could get away with fewer cable crossings by spacing them a little further apart. Horrid joining in of new yarns. Badly hidden ends. Bleah!

But it's nonetheless a good trip down memory lane, and after all, was only 15. Therefore, it amuses me enough to share it here now, and I am so very touched that Mom wants it "fixed" even though of course she has a number of other garments, well-executed, which I have knitted for her since then. She says it has sentimental value. And besides, it's good for watering the plants, puttering around the house and rounding up her two cats.

What amazes me the most is the old Red Heart yarn from Woolworth's. This sweater has walked a lot of dogs and taken out a lot of garbage and planted a lot of rosebushes, so it's been washed about 83 gazillion times, and no doubt accidentally bleached a couple of times. But, aside from a few snags caused by bushes or puppy teeth, it has held up like ...well, like Red Heart.

Red Heart is like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhies. You just can't kill it. Amazing stuff. I mean, aside from all the inexperienced construction and stuff, it still looks ... well ... not too shabby.

Happy Halloween.


P.S. -- Jigsaw was disappointed that nobody entered the costume contest, but I told her this year was just a test balloon. A little catnip and tuna helped her get over it. We'll try again next year, won't we, folks?

Don't y'all let Jigsaw down next year, you hear?


At 5:08 AM, Anonymous Marianne said...

I tried to leave a comment on your most recent post and it wouldn't let in regard to that funny! and we call the nose-smears 'snart' over here......
Amazing sweater, I'm just glad to hear that it's gotten so much use, and you being 15 when you knit it up, good job! The wonderful things we learn with time, still a sweater to feel good about!

At 5:41 AM, Blogger Jess said...

Yarn leaves a long, winding trail of memory and accomplishment... what a great trip!

At 8:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please tell Jigsaw that some of her fans were busy knitting on 1) Sock Wars 2) Afghans for Afghans vests and 3) Caps for the Capitol (as well as assorted other ongoing projects) -- so it wasn't as if we weren't interested in the costume contest! Ask her to please remind us early next year (say, August? for us slow knitters). We will be thinking of ideas between now and then.
Vickie, in NJ

At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At first I was excited about the costume contest, but then I got intimidated and thought I couldn't do anything good enough for you and Jigsaw, rootbeer-out-the-nose-wise. Maybe I need a little catnip and tuna to encourage me to try next year, you think?
Ruth, in Petaluma

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Ann said...

I had really serious plans to costume 1) Sparky the bob-tailed Wonder Cat (she was going to be a pirate--avast there!) 2) the garden gnome (Count Dracula) and 3) one of my many tiny sheep (as a wolf, you know, sheep in wolf's clothing)

But then A4A got in the way, and Ship Support (did I mention 15 hats?)

And there you have it.

Sparky sends sad head butts to Jigsaw. Maybe next time. . .

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Xeres said...

Love the trip down yarn-memory lane. I was at my parents' house a few days ago and saw, as always, a set of very wobbly looking fired-clay echidna, a mummy echidna and two baby echidnae, that I made for her ooooo... yes, probably about 31 years ago *grin*. That they are still there always puts a little warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart. My 2 year old daughter was very interested in them, for the 'mummy and baby' and 'animal' aspects, although completely disinterested in the fact that *her* mummy had made them, once upon a time.

I still have my first ever solo knitting experiment - a (yes, wobbly-looking) white toy stuffed elephant in garter stitch. Not quite up to YOUR first solo effort, Mambocat!

At 8:34 AM, Blogger sogalitno said...

wow mother love is incredible non?

i wish i still had any of the items i attempted to knit at 10 in baton rouge when my grandmother taught me. somehow nothing survived .

interestingly enough my first sweater ever was a cable VOGUE creation in the 80s = i didnt know enough to know i couldnt do it. it was in a heavy gray wool from a knitting shop near DUpont Circle. i hung on to it for years after i grew and it didnt (!). eventually only gave it up when it had become a "bed" for my elder cats and then had to reluctantly throw it out when mice got into it. sigh.

But i saved the hat! it is amazing looking at it - i do remember knitting it up in that very small one room studio apt (and i mean SMALL) right off of Dupont Circle. And my grandmother had died several months after i had moved to Washington, so i was knitting it without her earthly guidance but i do believe she must have been guiding me in my efforts. I learned a hell of a lot with that sweater - one of these days i want to find that pattern and remake it.

At 1:34 AM, Blogger Dez Crawford said...

First things first ... I had a long talk with Jigsaw and she understands about everybody being busy knitting more important things. But she IS looking forward to trying her costume contest again next Halloween, okay?

Wait a sec .... she just inquired ... maybe for Mardi Gras?

Xeres, the sweater wasn't my first-ever knitting experiment ... sorry I wasn't clear about that. It WAS the first sweater I made for my Mom, though.

Kitty greetings warmly acccepted and returned by all ... Happy Halloween!

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Scarlet said...

Wow... did you guys not get water or did the acrylic from the Red Heart survive that? We found a few knitted doilies at MJ's (my best friend's mother in Lakeview) that we were able to salvage with some very careful bleaching... well, I suppose I must mention that one of the knitted items we found didn't come from her house, yet we found it in the back bedroom. Go figure.


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