Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What a hand-knit sweater is made of

Since we are in the middle of "Snow-mageddon" here in Toronto, the wise thing to do here at Casa de Irene and Man Yung is not to venture out - not even for tango - and stay home!

Which is a good thing, since I'm knitting a Fair Isle sweater for a dear sweet amiga in Argentina and need all the time I can scrounge up to complete the project in time.  This time it's Ann Feitelsen's Westerwick Cardigan from her book, "The Art of Fair Isle Knitting".


I love this book.  I've made several cardigans from Ann Feitelsen's patterns - the sweaters may not have the glamour of the ones designed by Alice Starmore, another one of my favourite designers, but they have a practical, pretty quality that makes me want to wear these sweaters every day.  In fact, Man Yung and I wear two of the sweaters (see below) from Ann Feitelsen's book so much, that the strands of yarn have felted together in our sweaters, forming one cohesive fabric (you get this phenomenon a lot with fair isle yarn because of all their 'sticky' threads):

Hillshead Slipover and Lunna Jumper from Ann Feitelsen's "The Art of Fair Isle Knitting"

Once, I wanted to write a fan letter to Ann Feitelsen, and I even contacted her publisher - but they didn't have an address or an email for her.  Searching the internet, it seems that she appears once in a while to teach master knitting classes at major knitting festivals (yes, knitters have those, they have workshops and stuff, just like tango!), but there's not a lot of information about her out there.  I wish that she would write another knitting book - I'm sure it would be superb, I love her use of colour and pattern.

I'm really enjoying the process of making the Westerwick Cardigan.  Every spare moment in the morning before I go to work and in the evening when there is no tango, I'm knitting.  In between thinking about topics to post on our blog and plotting to kill for shoes, I even meditate.

What is a sweater really made of?

On the most basic level, a sweater is made out of yarn:

A whole box of yarn from Camilla Valley Farm, in fact.  God bless internet yarn retailers and fast shipping!

A sweater is also made out of work.  A clever acquaintance of mine found out that I liked to knit and asked me to make her a sweater.  "You enjoy knitting anyway!" was her rationale.  

Well, I estimated that at my regular rate of $350 per hour as a lawyer, the estimated 140 hours it would take for me to knit the darn thing would cost her $49,000 (plus another $250 for the yarn).  Did she want to give me a retainer?  Nope.

Even a sleeveless unfinished Westerwick Cardigan will set you back, oh $33,000.00 if you want me to make it for you

It's snowy and cold outside.  I'm sitting on our sofa wedged in between two purring cats, with a hot, sugary cup of Horlicks nearby.  Man Yung is giving me a foot massage and we are watching Chinese TV together.  The knitting needles are going clickety-clack, clickety-clack as row upon row of knitting materialize in my hands as if by magic:


 Each stitch is in the shape of a heart

What a hand-knit sweater is really made of is love.  If you look close-up, a sweater is actually made of a gazillion tiny hearts!  Every stitch is a heart* - a thought, a prayer for the person you knit for (yes, even for those who are paying by the hour!). 

We hope our amiga likes this cardigan - but I don't think we should worry. I sent her photos of the work in progress so that she would know what we were planning to make for her.  "We didn't want to give you an unpleasant surprise!  Maybe you wouldn't like it!"  we said.

"And why wouldn't I love everything that you give to me? Don't be silly!" she said.

She loves us, you know.


* No wonder why there's a sweater curse going around - and boyfriends of knitters all over the world running screaming for the exit when presented with sweaters made from the hands of their girlfriends.  They've just been presented with a garment MADE COMPLETELY OF FERVENT, BLEEDING HEARTS.

I had been warned about the sweater curse when I bought the yarn for the very first sweater I ever made for Man Yung.  "If you aren't already married, he's going to run away when you give him the sweater!" said the shop owner.

Well, I've been trying my darndest but no matter how many sweaters I've made, Man Yung isn't showing any sign of budging.  The yarn shop I bought the yarn from has even closed and gone out of business - but Man Yung is still here, bugging me to make him more sweaters!

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Alberto Dassieu

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