A Love Letter to Hand-Knit Sweaters

Dear Hand-Knit Sweaters,

We haven’t always had the best relationship, and since we just wrapped up Valentine’s Day, I thought it was time to apologize for my behavior, and tell you how much you mean to me.  To be honest, you intimidated me in the beginning.  As a new knitter, it seemed like sweaters were so far out of reach, even though you are what really inspired me to learn the craft.

I stayed in my scarf and hat comfort zone for 6 years before I finally attempted my first sweater.  As a simple shrug, worked in bulky weight yarn, you seemed perfect for me.  The magazine photo showed only one view, and the schematic showed 8 pieces, but how could it go wrong??  The easy rating seemed like a match made in heaven and I pressed forward with full steam on those size 11 needles.  It wasn’t until we were trying to seam things together that you revealed so many things I didn’t know about you.  I didn’t have the correct Gauge…Why didn’t you tell me?  Picking up stitches???  Why can’t I find a tutorial??  Pattern updates???  No wonder these pieces don’t seem to fit together.  As much as I wanted things to work, we just weren’t meant to be together.  I’m so sorry I had to frog you, but there was really no other way.  I will always fondly remember the things you taught me.

Warm, Cozy, 100% Baby Alpaca Poncho goodness!

Warm, Cozy, 100% Baby Alpaca Poncho goodness!

Two more failed attempts at sweater love led me to a labor of love and my first completed sweater 2 years later.  It was the summer of 2012, and I needed companionship.  I was without a job, and the other love of my life was across the country for work.  Knitting helped me carve out a way to stay close to my husband while I was sorting out what to do next with my life.  For my birthday in May, I meekly said to Matt, “Maybe I could open a yarn shop???”  He looked at me with a surprised look, sort of chuckled, and said something to the effect of, “Well maybe, but do people even buy yarn?  You haven’t even made a sweater, have you?”  Challenge accepted.  He didn’t know it, but the second I got home from that visit, I cast on for a top down sweater with a Shawl collar, made just for him.  The pattern was well-written, and designed by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed.  For a simple sweater, it had lots of great learning moments, and knitterly details that kept it interesting.  I worked on it at least a little bit, everyday until Christmas.  In the Fall, he returned home, so I had to work on it while I was on lunch breaks while working at the farm, or while he was away at his night classes.  I’d steal away moments with that sweater, and stage an extra project, so I could run into the guest bedroom and throw his sweater in the closet the moment I saw his headlights in the driveway.  It felt very scandalous.  On Christmas Eve, when he opened the box, he looked up at me with surprise, and something like belief.  See, at this point I was full speed ahead on Stitch Space, and now he was on my team.  The initial skepticism had faded and right in front of him, he had proof of my dedication to the knitting cause.  It was official, I was head over heels for sweater knitting.

From there things got steamy.  2013 marked the year of the shop opening, and I completed cardigans, pullovers, tanks and more.  I was knitting like mad to make more pieces to show off in my own wardrobe, and to show off as samples in the shop.  The winter leading into 2014 was probably the most productive time of my life, and helped push that year to a sweater count of 10 completed.  Although there were some hard times that year, I used my knitting as therapy and kept on cranking out the equivalent of wearable comfort food.  Late that summer I fell for sweater knitting all over again when we launched the CustomFit program with the shop re-opening, and I witnessed so many women making beautiful garments that fit them so well.  I finished 3 CustomFit sweaters myself, and cheered everytime a Knit-A-Long participant wore their creation into the store.  I was teaching people to make sweaters, talking about sweaters, dreaming about sweaters, scheming my next sweater, and loving everything about them.  It was a high point in our relationship.

Pre-CustomFit, but still very loved!

Pre-CustomFit, but still very loved!

But something changed with the busyness of life.  It wasn’t you sweaters, it was me.  This past year, I only completed one sweater, and I lost sight of why I loved you so much.  I let myself get distracted with so many other things, and I let the pile of unfinished objects grow.  As Stitch Space has grown, I forgot how great the thrill of finishing a sweater can be.  I didn’t spend enough time with you to really show how much I care.

You see, you complete me.  The feelings of pride, comfort, and joy brought on by a handmade sweater are hard to compare to.  There is the planning and strategy of it all; picking the perfect pattern, needles, and yarn.  The countless hours spent knitting and hoping that it lives up to the dream in my head.  Shopping for the perfect accompanying outfit.  Blocking each piece and seeing the neat little stack of pieces grow.  The marathon seaming and finishing when I catch wind of the high of being in the home stretch.  The nervous butterlies feeling when I pull the sweater over my head and skip to the mirror to see how it looks.  That first time taking you to stitch night for everyone else to admire.  The planning of an entire weeks worth of outfits based around you, because I just don’t want to wear anything else.  That comfortable moment at home by the fireplace, when you are cozy around my shoulders and I realize we have crossed out of that “new” love phase, but you’re still right there beside me.  You’re showing some wear and a few pills, but nothing a sweater stone and a fresh blocking won’t fix.

Sweaters, you make me feel fabulous.  You provide me comfort in the cold and the difficult times, and you make me feel capable of so many things.  I’ve chosen your colors, we’ve learned so much together, and you just keep getting better.  Yes, our love may have had its ups and downs, but I’ll always love you.  I’ll always be a sweater knitter.  And at the end of the day, year, my life, I’ll have a chest full of treasures that tell the story of my life in wool, cotton, linen and stitches.  A story that can be seen from the outside, but one that we know is so much deeper on the inside.

So here’s to growing a collection of handknit sweaters that we can be proud of and love forever.

Warmly (thanks to you),

P.S.  I’ve put together a trunk show of some of my favorites to share with everyone that will be on display for the rest of February.  Stop in so I can show off my sweater love!

2 Cardigans that are on heavy rotation.

2 Cardigans that are on heavy rotation.

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