“Mom, you don’t want me to put this in the bag for Goodwill, do you?” my son asked. He brought me this:
The boys were under orders to switch their rooms, because my older son was leaving for college. Part of switching rooms meant cleaning out clothes and packing away unwanted things for charity.
“No . . . no,” I replied, taking the sweater. “I’m glad you checked. This should go to your cousins.”
I examined the little sweater. It’s unusual for me to find any of my first knitting projects around the house anymore. Many of them were baby and children’s items that have long since been given over to my nieces and nephews, who are all younger than my kids. Despite having been worn by both of my boys, it was still in decent shape — a little worn, perhaps, but still good enough to wear to preschool and certainly good enough to be a Saturday sweater. (The pattern is from Sirdar Snuggly No. 4913).
Seeing my first projects is kind of like going back and re-reading my journals from years ago. While it’s one thing to see photos of my younger self, it’s another thing entirely to hear my younger self’s voice from the pages of my journals from the past. Looking at the sweater brought me back to my novice knitter self, with all the newbie insecurity and financial and time constraints that entailed.
My first knitting project was a garter-stitch scarf, and my second was much more ambitious — a short-sleeved sweater for myself with set-in sleeves, made from microfiber ribbon rayon. I was underwhelmed with my seaming job and moped to my friend and fellow law student, Andrea, who had taught me the basics of knitting.
“Try knitting kids’ sweaters,” she advised. “They’re smaller, contain all the elements of a larger sweater, and kids don’t care if they’re not perfect. Also, be patient with yourself. It will take you five or six sweaters to be comfortable with construction and finishing.”
Sound advice, I discovered. I knit a series of simple sweaters for my then-preschool-aged son, picking up new techniques with each (cables, raglan sleeves, rollnecks, and so forth). This little sweater was probably the fourth or fifth item I ever knitted. Examining it, I was pleased that it wasn’t a complete mess. My stitches were pretty even, the cables were well-executed, and it fit. I’ve since become much more adept at my finishing work, but this wasn’t too bad. I know I was very critical of it at the time, though.
I knit this using an inexpensive, practical, acrylic-wool blend that cost less than buying an equivalent sweater off the shelf. It was all my law student self could afford at the time, and I was rather smug about the fact that I could knit something nicer than I could buy, for less money.
I thought about how each project I’ve ever knitted has taught me something. In this case, it was a little taste of success: I learned how to cable and to knit a ribbed crew neck. After making a few more sweaters for my son, I got up the nerve to make more for myself. The lessons I learned from those early projects transferred to my adult-sized sweaters, so that I tended to have more successes than failures.
I’ve washed and blocked the sweater, and set it aside for my youngest nephews to wear. Having reminded me of my knitting past, it’s time to send it along to be worn and enjoyed by new little people.