Sunday, June 19, 2011


I thought this would be an easy project, a no-brainer, a piece of cake. I was wrong.

I am working on reverse engineering a sweater I made in the early to mid '90's out of a mohair muff of Patons Knit n' Save. Knit n' Save was literally a giant single skein of yarn about the size of a watermelon of the uiquitous late '80's-early '90's fluffy mohair that was prevalent in most design books. I found it at a yarn store in Calistoga, CA. Each ball purported to have enough yardage to make a whole sweater, and it was cheap--good since I was fairly poor in those days. No Rowan yarn for me, then! I bought two big muffs of the stuff, each in an ombred colors, one in blues and greens, the other in reds and fushia pinks.

I used the blue green yarn to make a the ball-band pattern that claimed to take one skein and the result was a huge floppy, fluffy mock neck pullover with a giant center cable. I still have it, but it is prohibitively warm and scratchy, so that sweater languishes even still, destined to be frogged and repurposed.

The second skein I wanted to do something more special. I loved the colors and how they faded into one another immensely. I wanted to make a sweater, but the more I looked, the more I didn't want to cut the yarn. In those days there was no Ravelry. In fact, for my purposes, there was even no internet. I had already gotten a decent pattern library by this time, but there was nothing in my books that suited my purpose, so I did something bold: I made my own design.

I had the idea that I would use the whole ball of yarn. I didn't like the looser weave of the first sweater I had made--done on large needles, perhaps a size 9 or 10. I wanted a denser fabric. So I boldly cast on, deciding to knit cuff to cuff and seamless and off I went. I fit the sweater to myself as I went and tweaked the shaping as the knitting progressed. I remember frogging and reknitting parts, but mostly it went smoothly. The result was a cuff to cuff sweater somewhere between a bolero and a shrug. I had some bblack mohair yarn in my stash, so I co-opted an 8-row welt stitch I had used in another same-era sweater and put a binding around the neck/fronts/waist opening and also around each cuff. I was out of the original red yarn, but I had some other red mohair from the same sweater as the black, so I added some rows of red and another welt. I also added the same red/black welt along the neck back and sides. Lastly, I put two sewn in black snaps at the waist to close, double breasted style. The result was this:

I was quite pleased with how this turned out. The fabric is nice and dense. It is a warm sweater, but not heavy or oversized. It is easy to wear and I have worn it over dresses and jeans. And it was MY design. I foolishly didn't make ANY notes of what I did or how I did it. I had always meant to and meant also to draft it into a pattern that I could redo. As the years progressed and I saw other designers drawing up their patterns the desire to write mine up grew, even as my memory of what I did dimmed.

I have never liked to write much, even though I have done a lot of writing due to the Literature half of my college major. (Biology being the other half.) I have been told that I write well by people who read my stuff, though don't hold your breath for the Great American Novel. It'll never happen. I have though about writing knitting patterns or even pattern books for years. I have had design ideas that lack of time or laziness has caused me to not follow through on. In the long run, I have really found it easier to just truck along using someone else's designs ,even if I do tend to tweak those patterns to suit my own tastes in one form or another.

Still, there was always this sweater--my cocoon sweater--that was a completed project, that I really liked and that I had made up on my own. Now I have a motivation. My favorite shop here in town--Northcoast Knittery-- has set its regulars a challenge: they want us to submit designs for a self-published book. My jaw hit the floor when they made the announcement and I was BEYOND excited. I could do this! I--little old me--could become a published knitwear designer! Wow! It was obvious to me where to start--my cocoon. The only sticking point was I needed to choose a yarn that the store sells and that was still available for purchase--nothing discontinued. I picked my yarn, proposed my design which the others in our every-other-Tuesday designer group meetings said looked great and...nothing. I simply have not been able to get started. Yeesh.

Just as it was in college, I am dawdling. I cannot begin to tell you all how many papers I sat on and wrote, with great anxiety, at the last minute. It was AWFUL. I was always stressed. In going back to school a few years back, I tried harder not to procrastinate like I used to and I was moderately successful. Still, I find with no deadlines, I just can't self motivate to work. And here I am: procrastinating, this time by blogging. Or maybe not.

I ran a marathon in 1998. When I started training, I told EVERYONE I knew I was doing that. In the end, that served as a motivator of sorts because I was CONSTANTLY asked how my training was going and I was damned well not going to give up and admit that I couldn't do the race. I am on the hook the same way now--and I have homework. I have yarn and it has been wound up into center pull cakes. My old sweater is by my side and my laptop ready for notes. I can do me go!