Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Legacy Sweater, Part 1

My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was a child. She's the one who got me my first pair of knitting needles- They were plastic, dark green, and probably designed specifically for kids.

I guess I had the standard relationship with knitting that most kids have- I didn't knit for a long time, churned out one garter stitch scarf for a high school boyfriend, and then didn't knit again until my mid-twenties, where I suddenly became obsessed with knitting, and specifically with knitting socks, for no rational reason whatsoever.

My grandmother has had Alzheimer's for about ten years now. At the beginning, she could still knit and often did- she was working on a sweater for my mom. But as you can see, her brain was have difficulty remembering the proper way to do things(not exactly the way to bind off ribbing...) (um, the front and the back are not the same. At all. And if you look closely, there is soup or something orangey on the sweater.)

Of course, she had to put it down. Then she was knitting these skinny, long scarves- it was as if her fingers still knew the mechanics and could knit, but her brain could no longer decide what a normal scarf looked like. But still, it was something for her to do.

My grandmother is still alive, but will not outlive this year. Just before Christmas, she was diagnosed with cancer, and since she already has such advanced Alzheimer's, there's really nothing that can be done. I couldn't frog what she had already knitted- this is, in essence, the last thing she will ever knit. So I only ripped back the cast off edge, and decided to do some seamstress-ing to tidy up the rest. And wash it, of course.

I finished the sweater on December 24th, tried it on, knew that something was horribly wrong (how could the sleeves be so long? I thought I tried them on as I went) and the wide, square neckline results in sleeve caps that don't stay on the shoulders too well, especially once I washed it and the yarn grew!!), but decided to wrap it up anyway and sort it out after my mother tried it on. As suspected, she promptly burst into tears when she saw it- she recognized the wool. She knew what it was. Even though it didn't fit right, I promised to fix it. She loved it anyway.

I brought the sweater back to Toronto with me, to sort the sleeve issue and the neckline issues. I could use some suggestions, so please feel free to drop me a line! Here's the run down: sleeve cap is bagging, not clinging to the neckline at all.

A little shapeless, which is okay in the front....

...but crap in the back. And look how low that back neckline is!

And, well... obviously, this sweater needs help.

Suggestions? I can rip out the sleeves and the neckline, that's the part that I did the knitting for, and it's not my handiwork that I'm trying to preserve!


erica-knits said...

Well I can't help with the sweater. I have yet to make one. I make mittens mostly. But my Grandmother taught me how to knit, too. The same one that also has Alzheimer's. This year my Grandad brought me all her wool that she could no longer knit. It's hard. I'm very sorry to hear about your Grandmother, I know how difficult a disease it is. I think it is great you're finishing her sweater. It makes knitting just that much closer to the heart.

Adriana said...

That is such a touching story. It's so amazing that you are trying to turn her work into something wearable.
As for the neck problem, do you have more yarn? Maybe if you knit a few more inches, including some strategically placed decreases, it might fit better.

Kim said...

That is an awesome story! It is so cool that you can help her finish what was obviously important to her

funsize said...

I really want to see this sweater, but for some reason the photos aren't working for my browser.

lekkercraft said...

I really wish I could give some advice on how to work this out, but I'm horrible about sweater construction. I don't know if it might be possible to connect the front and back at the shoulders to make more of a boatneck sweater? Then, of course, how to attach the sleeves... Wish I could be of more help.

Mostly, I just wanted to say that I think it's so special what you're doing to preserve and finish your grandmother's work. It's such a nice way to connect to her and appreciate her teaching. Good luck with finishing - I'm sure you will get it worked out.

Hilary said...

What a touching story. The sweater will surely be cherished for a long time no matter what. What about ripping back the neckline and sleeve caps and doing it as a raglan in the round like the Hourglass Sweater from Last Minute Knitted Gifts? That way you can rip back some of the sleeve length, and if you have enough yarn you can add to the back of the sweater to make it higher, too. I've found that a raglan yoke works best for me -- is easy to do and fits well -- when I'm not following a pattern and am not really sure what I'm doing!

Hilary said...

P.S. Despite the fit issues, it really is a beautiful sweater.

Kamicha said...

Very touching story, I totally understand your will to make this piece wearable.

I my opinion the front seems actually nice, I like that feminine deep square neckline. What if you just add some length to the back before ribbing. Few decreases on both sides near the arm openings would probably get those sleeves to fit a little better. Those sleeve caps could be made with fewer stitches to make them fit better and probably just few rounds more depth would help, too.