Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another Walk Down the Path of 80s Knitting Lessons

I posted last time about the nice sweater I made in the 80s that still works and has held up well to the scrutiny of time. Becca commented that she hopes hers old up in the future (no problem--she's doing way better than I did at her age and knitting stage). But, now I have to take you down yet another trip through my knitting memories, so you can see some of my more "interesting" knitting efforts and remember that most of my projects were learning experiences more than fashion projects!

The first sweater we see here was knit in my top-down sweater phase, after buying Knitting from the Top Down and becoming boggled at the possibilities. I thought, "Hey SAK (as I called myself at the time), why not knit a short-sleeved version of the top-down sweater, now that you know the formula?" And then another of my strong instincts kicked in--that endless drive to use up all my stash and any leftover yarn that happened to be lying around. People sure offered me a lot of yarn remnants. And I was a poor grad student. So I took them. Thus, I made the sweater here, which features cotton, acrylic, wool, novelty yarn, and fuzzy stuff. And for "variety" I even put some eyelets in that purple band. Perhaps this is a tad too varied? I think so. It also weighs about 4 pounds. I also wonder what compelled me to put the most itchy, hairy yarn around the edges, where it would bug me the most? I think I was under the impression that this mohair-style acrylic was "soft." Anyway, I ended up with a sweater that fit great, but was appropriate for neither winter, spring, summer nor fall. A learning experience.

Next we see something rather attractive. It's a traditionally knit Fair Isle-style sweater, inspired by my many, many 80s books on traditional patterns. It has those really cool ribbings with the color changes in them, and I even used genuine steeks at the armholes. Interesting, muted colors, aren't they? So, what is wrong with this sweater? Well, it is made of worsted weight wool. This wool, as far as I can tell, was not intended for garments. I think it was remnants from rugs or something. I got it on cones at a place called the "Yarn Barn" that used to be in Columbus, Ohio. I bought many cones for like a dollar each during my semi-annual visits there to visit our friend, Judy, who'd moved there. (She was a great cook, so we drove 5 hours to eat Thanksgiving with her for many years when I was in grad school--she was my gay office-mate Steve's ex girlfriend. Complicated it was.) She'd work the Friday after Thanksgiving, so Steve and my boyfriend and I would go to the yarn place and find "bargains" while she was at work, or go look at river confluences or Amish people in the countryside (we had a minor hobby of looking at Amish people and eating their baked goods--lots near U of I, too).

So, the issue with this sweater is that it's really nice looking, but is only appropriate for wearing outdoors while hiking or skiing in the snow. Too warm for indoors, even in Illinois. As you might predict, it has not been worn even once since I moved to Texas. But, I will never get rid of it. Too many memories!

The next item we see is a vest, which is one of the few examples of early 90s knitting you will see here (I mostly quilted and needlepointed when the kids were infants). Thankfully, it has no long stories about my old friends attached to it. It's actually a very nice vest featuring my former nemesis, the popcorn. It is made out of a very soft wool that may have some mohair in it. Nice quality stuff. The lesson I learned here is that really, I can leave patterns alone. I don't always need to "improve" them. But no, I felt like the back of this one would be too boring in plain stockinette, so I insisted on putting a pattern on it. See it behind the neckline? Yep. It has nothing to do with the front. So, it's a somewhat schizophrenic vest. I actually do wear this one sometimes. It is not too short. Good ole 90s.

Lookee here now. This little item I remember making very well in the mid or early 80s. I got the yarn when I was visiting my parents during a summer in grad school, so it was before Mom died in 1984. The yarn came from that first LYS I ever went to, in Plantation, Florida. The owner had made up this pattern, and I was so excited by the strips of gen-u-ine angora that I had to make it. Plus I thought maybe I could even wear it in Florida! What I learned here was that mitered squares are fun (way ahead of the trend on that one, wasn't I?) and that angora itches me like crazy. It reinforced the lesson from the previous outfit, too. Why did I insist on adding that little extra burst of angora, right near my face, so it could really, REALLY irritate me? I just wanted to knit with that softness a wee bit more, that's all. Another lesson learned, and learned well, was that synthetic fabrics do not breathe. That novelty yarn was HOT. And so was the really icky stuff I used on the ribbing. Ick. I did try to wear this one, but it itched, even with an undershirt under it. Oh well. It was a fun learning experience to make it.

And finally, today's parade of ancient knits ends on a happier note. This vest is made from a cotton/acrylic novelty yarn that was quite enjoyable to use. This one was another early 90s model, and I got the yarn from my friend's shop in Champaign. I think I used my last "Hand Knit by Sue Ann" label on it, too. I like this one. And I wear it a couple of times a year. At least I learned that neutral colors hold up better than ugly pastels (this is gray, even though it looks sort of blue). And I learned I really like V-necks. I have quite a collection of V-necks with cable panels, don't I?

So, there are some more lessons I learned through my knitting history. Too bad some of the nicer things I made can't be photographed (because I gave them away). I hope you learn from my experiences and go on to make your own knitting history! Show me some of YOUR past products--don't be shy!

PS: spell check isn't working on Blogger today, but I'll fix typos later. Must go rescue my Amish friendship bread. I have Amish on the brain today.


  1. I really admire your archive of old knits! I look forward to having a long & "colorful" history to show off.

  2. I love reading your "history". For one thing it teaches some things of what not to do. It's so sad that Fair Isle itches because you did beautiful work on it!


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