Knitting for the beloved

My mother-out-law is a charming and delightful woman who is a fabulous seamstress.   (I say out-law because her daughter and I are not married, and not likely to be… and there is no option for our marriage in this country for us even if we were marrying types).  She clearly sewed wonderful garments her whole life and keeps telling me this latest frock will be her last and that she is giving up sewing, now, in her mid eighties.  Knitting she likes less, and has less confidence about.

So it was with some surprise that I saw her decide to knit a sleeveless vest for my father-out-law, who in the usual way of such things is a whole lot bigger than her.  All the more surprisingly, she chose 5 ply (fingering) 100% alpaca for the job, ensuring that there would be many thousands of stitches involved.  I happily cast on for her and knit the ribbing, wondering why she was doing it, especially as they live in tropical Brisbane.

I think the answer is all about love.  The love of her husband of over 50 years, and the love of the friend who can no longer knit who gave her this delectable yarn.

Over the last 3 or 4 years I have had progress updates.  At one point I turned a pesky purl that had slipped into the stocking stitch of the garment–fifty rows back–into the knit it was always destined to be.   The friend who taught me that trick has earned my undying gratitude!  At some stage I cast on the front and knit the ribbing for that.  When they visited recently it was clear that the enormity of the task was grinding her down,  with the back finished and about 1/3 of the the front done.  So I offered to finish it, with some trepidation about whether my skills would be up for the job at the level required.

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I chose needles a size bigger that she had been using, because she is a loose knitter and I am a tight knitter, and hoped for the best.  I knit away for some while before I realised there was an added stitch with a companion decorative hole, beginning an additional column of stitches well below the marked line where her knitting ended and mine began.  I ripped back and started from that new point.  After a while I saw that I had made a hole and a new column of stitches exactly the same way, ripped back again and continued up.  I got to the neck with some excitement and then realised it looked wrong.  On closer inspection, and with new respect for the improvements in pattern drafting I have enjoyed having taken up knitting long after this one was printed, I realised I was trying to knit a v neck using the instructions for the crew neck.  I ripped out that side of the neck and then a good 20 cm or so to get to the point where a v neck should begin… and then went again.  I cast off the upper edges too tightly for them to match the back and had to rip that out and re-knit.  Then I soaked it overnight and set it out to dry.

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After all that had gone wrong so far, I was immensely relieved to see all the puckering and the line where the baton passed from one knitter to another had vanished and the fabric looked great! Next, for the finishing parts… seaming, neckline and arm bands.  Instructions that go ‘pick up and knit 186 stitches evenly…’ always freak me out a bit!

Toward the end I was being cheer squad at the Moana Beach Triathlon and could not resist a Yarn Harlot shot of the vest at the beach.

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By the time you read this, the vest will have been reunited with the first knitter and then with the intended wearer.  I hope they both love it.  I certainly love them profoundly for making me so welcome in their family.

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12 Comments

Filed under Knitting

12 responses to “Knitting for the beloved

  1. Sabine

    Your writing is straight from the heart, I felt the love you have for your outlaws as if it was meant for me! What a lovely story – I’m glad I subscribe to your blog. Thanks.

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    • Thanks so much, Sabine. I’m really touched. Thanks for visiting and commenting–it makes a big difference feeling that sense of community in the online space. I feel extremely lucky and blessed to be so welcomed by my partner’s whole family. It could so easily have been different, and I don’t forget that. It sounds like you welcome others into your family and your life… thanks for doing that!

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  2. My nomination for knitting sainthood! That is a true love story.
    : )

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    • Too kind! I have to say I think more might be required for sainthood… if anyone pitches me a Kaffe Fassett design well short of completion they’ll get no interest. That really would require saintliness IMHO. I had a hilarious conversation with a fellow sock knitter and friend who has a terminal illness about what kinds of knitting she could leave for me to finish if it comes to that… socks, yes. Lace coverlets in 4 ply, no chance, not even on her death bed! Death just has to be laughed about sometimes, evidently!

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      • Make sure she writes it down!
        What wonderful friends and connections you have, it all sounds very inspirational.
        BTW: I showed my mother your blog and she’s very excited about it (she was raving about the tea cosies and beautiful dye colors)! So I gave her the India Flint book for Christmas….

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      • Friends make a good life possible, I think. We printed the t shirts one day during my holidays: I invited other folk around and there was knitting, my fairy godson spun his first yarn, we made some string from leaves collected in the neighbourhood, one person considered a pattern she wanted to cut out and another did some knitting. Some people met for the first time and made new connections. It was a fun time!

        Surely your Mum will love the book! Which one did you get her? Please give her my best wishes, I’m glad she likes the blog. I love to share the crafty goodness… it’s one of the pleasures in my life, for sure!

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      • That sounds absolutely wonderful….
        My mother does love the book, the Eco Color one. I didn’t realize there were all those others, I may have to give myself a prezzie! Mom’s comment when she saw your blog was: I think I’ve been doing the wrong thing all these years! (she’s a potter)

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      • I love Eco-Colour too. I think if you had to have only one of India Flint’s books, that is the one to have. But if you Mother enjoys it, she would enjoy Second Skin too, I think!

        I can’t imagine how being a a potter could be wrong… it just isn’t possible to do everything, which is very unfortunate!

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  3. SubmarineBells

    The resulting vest looks beautiful. I can see no line or indication that the knitting changed hands partway through, based on these pics. If it looks that good “in person” then I think you’ve done a marvelous job of matching the original work, and you should feel very skilled and accomplished! I’m sure your out-laws will appreciate the love and effort that you’ve put into this garment.

    Quick technique question: do you usually soak garments overnight for blocking? I just wet them through then lay them out, and (to my eye) it seems to work ok. Does soaking them for longer make a difference to the end result?

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    • Thanks, SubmarineBells! I couldn’t see a line either, and it was such an immense relief, I can’t say. I feel a little bit accomplished and a lot lucky. L and R were extremely gracious, even though he has lost about 10 kg since it was started and it hangs off him, as I always assumed it must. But there’s no question of the mutual affection, and their superlative powers of diplomacy!

      No, I don’t always soak overnight. Like you, I would often do something short of that (sometimes just a steam press, as all the older Patons Australia patterns call for). I guess I just thought I should pull out all stops for this one, since it was more challenged than most–the earlier knitting was quite puckery and the line between us was distinct. Also, I was more anxious than usually. I don’t know if it made any difference. I’ve noticed that some very experienced knitting peeps (like Yarn Harlot) overnight soak especially special things and that dyeing best practice suggests wetting out for a long period, like overnight. That made me think I wanted to be sure that yarn absorbed water all the way to its core–and time weas not my main difficulty, so I just went with it. An hour might have been equally good.

      Ah, the ease of writing comments on a keyboard and not a phone 🙂 Happy new year!

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