Years ago, I designed and knitted something that my friend Jean thought would be really special if I were to make one for a relative of hers whom I’ve known and admired for years. She really hoped.
She had no idea what it’s like to knit an intense fair isle pattern nor that that’s a type of work I just don’t do often enough to have it come naturally. It was, in the end, just a hat, a very finite number of rows no matter the anticipated agony (which it wasn’t really in real life once I got down to it), but it ended up in my someday/it would be nice/I want to have knitted not to have to knit it column.
She mentioned on one other occasion how perfect its motif would be for him and when nothing happened, she didn’t want to bug me and that was that.
Except that it wasn’t. I actually really wanted to do it. And I quietly did, once, (they never knew) and didn’t realize till I was finished that I had totally goofed the pattern over here and that it would take more time to unwind the strands and undo it than to just start over. So I should just start over.
I was feeling a little burned, though; how about we give that pattern a rest and do something else first. And you know how queues jump off from there.
Fast forward, oh, I dunno, at least half a dozen years…
I saw her daughter Marguerite Tuesday evening at a Relief Society (i.e. church woman’s group) Christmas social, and asked, Do you remember?
It took her a moment, then, Yes, I do!
Your mom always wanted me to make one of those for your husband. I’ve just spent a whole week thinking about your mom, and then I got this really nice long handwritten note in the mail from her today, totally unexpected, where she thanked me again for knitting her that angora shawl years ago.
(I didn’t mention that that had been so long ago that I didn’t even know how to knit lace then! It was just stockinette, but Jean had loved it. It was in angora so that her blind husband could feel the softness. He’s been gone for some time now.)
I continued, that really hit me and got me over whatever was in my way: today I cast it on.
She was surprised and thrilled, and told me, Mom told me she was writing you a note. She told me she’d been thinking about you all week.
I said, I’m doing it to honor Jean and all of you. I love your family.
I didn’t tell her that the yarn was from Colourmart and I’d scoured and pre-shrunk one of the colors but only one–the leftover yarn from Andy Mariani’s hat. So I knew what its gauge would be. The other yarn of the same type was surprisingly thin-looking, a third less full before the blooming process, and that made guessing right on the stranding tension…interesting. Every single float across the back had to have enough stretch for the hat to fit comfortably but it couldn’t be loose enough to poke through the stitches and show out the front. Every single one. In a yarn I hadn’t tried fair isle on before. It took a lot of attention (and untangling!) The alternative was to hank, scour, and wait a day while it dried and then rewind it but since that bug had finally bitten me I wanted to grab it before it got away from me. Knit it. NOW.
I started that hat Tuesday and I finished it last night and I scoured it today. You have to. Those mill oils have to go. That wasn’t a yarn store yarn, all nicely washed and prepped after the milling. I haven’t ever done that after the knitting with an extra fine merino before, much less for something that has to fit. I knew the wool would both fluff out and shrink a lot and that’s why I’ve always done it beforehand when working from cones. Silk is my only exception.
Every float is perfect. The fit is perfect. After much obsessive checking along the way, the pattern is perfect.
Because it’s for my 90-year-old Pearl Harbor survivor friend Jean, as well as her beloved son-in-law Russ she is so close to, and nothing else could possibly do.
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