My in-laws settled in with us on the sectional sofa in our beach house rental overlooking a grey, rainy oceanscape on a late summer afternoon. I pulled out a “safe” knitting project — one that I was making for myself, and not as a gift for anyone else. With pretty much my entire extended family staying in the beach house or nearby, I had to be careful about what projects I worked on outside my bedroom.
“That’s a lovely sweater you’re knitting,” remarked my mother-in-law, Vera. Vera knows how to knit, but is more of a crocheter than anything else. She has a great deal of respect for both crafts. “What’s the fiber?” she asked, reaching to touch the sweater sleeve.
“It’s a blend of wool, cashmere, and silk,” I replied. “I think it’ll make a fine sweater.”
“Oh,” said Vera, looking just a little sad. “I’m allergic to wool. And did I ever tell you the story about the angora sweater I had in high school?”
I knew that back when Vera was in school, wool sweaters with yokes worked in a fluffy, contrasting, angora color were all the rage. “Um, no, I don’t think so,” I mused, pulling out another length of yarn from the ball from which I was knitting.
“Well,” she answered, “Back then, every girl wanted an angora sweater. I finally got one and wore it to school, all excited. But by the end of the day, I had to take it off because it itched so badly. I’ve always had a hard time with wool and angora.”
Right then, one of my knitting projects was orphaned. Briefly, the only sound in the room was of the ceiling fan above us in the great room, whirring and softly clicking. Steve knew about the scarf I was knitting his mom, and jumped in to change the subject.
While we chatted, my mind kept going back to the scarf that was stowed away, out of sight in our bedroom nightstand drawer. I thought about how I’d found the yarn some months earlier, in winter, at my LYS. How I decided that its fuzziness and slight glint of silver would appeal to my mother-in-law. How well the yarn would marry up with the Orenburg lace pattern I had in mind. The yarn is a blend of mohair, silk, nylon, and sparkly stuff. It doesn’t appeal to me or to anyone else I can think of that I’d typically knit for, but based on what I’d seen my mother-in-law wear, I thought it would be perfect for her.
I know that mohair isn’t angora. They are two completely different animals yielding different fibers with different allergenic characteristics. Just because you’re allergic to one doesn’t mean you’ll be allergic to the other. I know that my mother-in-law finds wool itchy, and that itchiness may or may not be an actual allergy. I know that she therefore does not wear or crochet with wool, preferring synthetics instead. I also know that regardless whether a person has a bona fide wool allergy or simply an aversion, say, based on some misbegotten thing knitted for them when they were six years old by their great-aunt Martha, I won’t be successful in getting them to wear wool (or any other fiber) that they’ve decided not to wear. Knitter, know thy recipient. Knowing that she had a wool aversion, I’d chosen a wool-free yarn. I had no idea about her issues with angora, though. If I had any idea, I’d have made something out of silk or linen or cotton, perhaps. But not mohair, simply because it looks too much like angora: I figured that Vera would take one look at this fluffy scarf, remember her angora experience, and deem it unwearable, even if it contained zero wool and that mohair is different from angora.
I am more of a product knitter than a process knitter. I knit mostly because I want that finished product. While I’m knitting, I often imagine the products being used, either by me or by the intended recipients. I think about how much they will enjoy the things, how they may brag to others about how I made the items for them. It was those thoughts that had sustained me thus far into the project. I wasn’t that far along into it, having done the initial point and a bit of the scarf body.
I thought about how Vera might wear it with one of her jackets to church, or on their many social outings. I thought about the sparkle of the silver and the fuzzy fiber and how great it would look with her white-grey hair.
But now? Now I had an orphan project — one with no recipient in mind. True, I could still give it to her, in hopes that she might wear it other than against her skin. Doing so risks that she’ll keep it stashed in a drawer, though, never worn. I’ll find it when I settle their estate someday, I thought. The yarn and resulting fabric are not my style, nor are they my mom’s or anyone else’s I can think of. I’d have to plod on or rip it out and stash the yarn until I could figure something else to do with it. Because this was my first foray into Orenburg lace knitting, I decided to plod on.
And what a plod it’s been! I’ve picked this project up and put it down many times, all the while thinking about what to do with it when it’s done. So, it’s been hard to gin up the enthusiasm to work on it, even though I’m liking the Orenburg style of knitting. As with most of my projects, I tend to plod on until I reach the halfway point, after which I can usually count on finish-it-up-itis to carry me through to the end.
This week, I finally reached that halfway point:
Well, it was the halfway point according to the pattern, anyway. I decided it needs to be longer than what the pattern is calling for (or what my row gauge is coming out to), so I’ll add in a few more repeats. But I’m getting there.
And when it’s done? I’m still not sure. I’m toying around with the idea of giving it to her, anyway, and telling her that it’s mohair and wool-free, and hoping for the best.