This is my Learning Sweater. Not only is it the first sweater I ever knit (summer, 2001) it is the first thing I ever knit. The yarn is called No Dye Lot, and the creativity of its name extends to pretty much everything else about it. At 100% acrylic, it was singularly unpleasant to knit with, but at the time I didn’t know any better. The three enormous skeins I bought to complete the sweater came to a whopping total of nine bucks.
There were a lot of things I didn’t know about knitting when I started this sweater, but the biggest one was how to choose a pattern. The pattern from my Learning Sweater came from the same book that taught me how to knit, and that book was such a smashing success that I figured its patterns would be just as wonderful. Oops. There might be a person in the world for whom this pullover is just the thing, but I am not that person, for the following reasons:
- Ribbing. My body does not look good in ribbed edges. Those sleeve cuffs? Yucko. That bottom edge? No way. That collar? The yarn is so dense that the collar actually stands up on its own.
- Sleeve holes. Raglan sleeves are fine. Drop-shoulders are okay. Sleeve caps? Maybe. But these? These seams don’t know what they want to be. Part raglan, part caps, they inhabit some freakish nether-region where their only neighbors are mutant garments from garage sales. When I last put this on (something you will never see me do) it accentuated my chest in a way that was . . . well, wrong, just wrong!
- Increases. See the way the sweater sort of balloons out just above the ribbing at the waist? And on the sleeves? Increases are a common technique when you want part of a garment to be loose while another is snug. This is fine for some people, but it makes me look like an idiot. I’m a skinny guy, so any kind of. . . er, enlargement tends to stand out. Loose-fitting shirts are fine, but puffy sweaters? No, no, and no.
The truth is that I knew I’d never wear the sweater in public the moment I finished sewing the last seam. And that moment was a full three and a half months from the afternoon that I cast on the first stitch. I did try the sweater on, but the horror that stared back at me in the mirror only strengthened my conviction.
But I’m not the least bit sorry that I knit this sweater.
The original question that started this thread was, what inspires me in a sweater design? What draws me to one pattern and not another? Well, I like projects that are long, that require a committment, that present a challenge, that will teach me something that I didn’t know before I started, and whose rewards are complex, enduring, and continually unfolding. This pretty much goes for all of my favorite things: novel writing, long-distance running, being married. I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, but it’s those things that made me choose a sweater as my first real project, why I saw it through to the end, and why I haven’t tossed it into the trash or handed it over to my cat.
Oh, I also like to knit things with cables. Lately, anyway.