Slowtober: Remaking 3

I never wear this beautiful sweater. But is it a candidate for remaking?

During this month of Slow Fashion October, I am focusing on remaking existing clothes in my wardrobe I no longer wear. You can read my introduction to remaking here and read my previous post here.

 

This sweater was given to me about ten years ago by my late, very dear next-door-neighbour. She had knitted it for her eldest son in the seventies and when he had outgrown it, she stored it carefully away. She gave it to me as she knew I loved to knit and wear woollens. It will be her birthday this week, she would be around 90, so it is very timely to be considering her beautiful work.

 

I have worn it camping a few times but it is really too big for me. It is also too small for my partner. It is also not a colour that I would ever wear as a large block. So here is the conundrum:

  • I can store it and preserve my friend’s knitting but this takes up space and wastes the useful potential of her work.
  • I can give it away to someone who fits the sweater but I think if I actually felt I could do this, I would have done so already.
  • I could chart the cable patterns in the sweater and then unravel and reknit the sweater into a garment that fits me, incorporating the original motifs. This would be undoing my friend’s work but would honour the materials and her design choices. I would be knitting with the same yarn she did. But her sweater would not exist anymore.

What do you think? How does remaking engage with memory and sentiment? Does remaking add to the life story of a garment or destroy part of it?

 

30. October 2017 by Rebecca
Categories: knit | Tags: , , , , | 38 comments

Comments (38)

  1. What a lovely sweater – and what a conundrum!

    I just unraveled and reknit the cuffs and neck of a sweater I knit for my daughter when she was a college undergraduate. She lives in a much warmer clime than we so gave me the patterned Lopi sweater. My arms are longer than hers and my head bigger 🙂 so I sat under a strong light, changed the cuff and neck design slightly and, voila, and it’s perfect for me!

    As to your sweater – it looks beautifully knit and is a classic. I don’t think I’d touch it. My thought would be to wear it as an amazing oversized sweater around the house, camping, etc., washing and carefully storing it at the end of every winter. A well knit sweater of high quality wool will, as you know, provide decades of wear and warmth. It maybe be that one of your little ones will be able to wear it in the future.

    • Thank you Sweaty Knitter for such a considered response. I think the fact that my friend knitted the stitches is holding me back from unravelling it. If they were my stitches, I would have frogged it already for the yarn. It really doesn’t make me feel good wearing it however but I have considered waiting for my son to grow into it.

  2. What about dying it? Her knitting is beautiful and to frog it would be such a shame. Indigo?

    • Thanks Beth, it would look lovely dyed indigo only it wouldn’t change the fit and that is what stops me wearing it. I do like the dyeing idea though.

  3. I think raveling and re-knitting would erase the beautiful legacy knitting of your neighbor. Can you take in the sides a bit to make it fit better for you?

    Otherwise, I think I’d make it into a pillow as a memory item.

    • Dear Michele, I think you are right, it is the actual stitches that belong to my friend. She told me how challenging she found this sweater and how hard she tried to get all the stitches right. The idea of undoing the stitches, makes me shudder a little. The pillow is an intriguing idea, I hadn’t thought of that.

  4. Is it knitted in pieces and seamed? Can you not undo the seams and re-sew it up a little smaller?

    And then dye it? A huge pot, slow increments of colour until it’s darker and another more usable colour?

    • Yes, Freyalyn, it is knitted in pieces and seamed. I could reseam it but the fabric sits on me like a suit of armour, it looks like the sweater is wearing me and not the other way around. I think reseaming wouldn’t change that aspect or the neckline. I do like the idea of dyeing it though.

  5. Oh what a dilemma! If you really think that you would wear it if it was reknitted smaller for you then I would do that. Especially if you incorporate the same pattern. And yes your friends knitting would be gone (perhaps you could keep the cuffs?) But the wool will continue to have a life and a purpose and trust me you would think of her every time you wore it. As opposed to storing it away and very occasionally looking at it or fingering it. When people pass away there are parts of them that we cannot keep – the physical part of them for a start. It’s hard to let go but our homes are not museums or giant storage units – that wool looks beautiful and deserves a new life. And a woman from your friends era would well understand the reasoning behind the remaking of it into something you will love more.

    • Dear Jane, you are right, our homes are not museums or storage units and my friend would probably be horrified I was so worried about what to do with her sweater. And yet, there is something so significant in her stitches. I think I must find a solution that both preserves her stitches and yet produces something useful.

  6. I made a jumper for my son to keep him warm when, age 15, he visited a very cold place in winter time…..Auschwitz. He’s a very kind soul and he said that this particular jumper was so warm that he couldn’t even wear it in Auschwitz in February! How comforting that even there my lovely boy was warm enough. We agreed, at my suggestion, that this jumper made with love and care and barely worn would be given to a homeless person. I went into town and offered it to a man who was thrilled to receive it. With this particular jumper it’s integrity was needed. It needed to stay intact and live out the intention knitted into it of keeping a person warm in a very cold place. I believe in honoring the stories that we tell ourselves and each other. Listen well and follow the story…..

    • Dear Sarah, I think you have hit on something rather profound here, preserving the integrity of item’s purpose, to keep someone warm in a very cold place. Mmmm, I shall need to think about this and as you say, listen well and follow the story.

  7. It is a beautiful sweater! I think given your considerations, I would chart the pattern, unravel the yarn, dye and steam the yarn gently and then reknit to fit you. A big task but filled with love and care. I think the yarn and pattern should be worn and I am sure the lady would be delighted that you are upcyling and adapting her choices. I would dye the yarn as the colour would hold me back too. If you use natural dyes from your landscape, something she would have had in her garden or admired, the dyeing also becomes mindful of all the details of the project? You may have enough for a hat too?

    • Dear Jill, your thoughts echo my intellectual intentions for resolving this conundrum and yet, I cannot seem to commit to undoing her stitches. If they were my stitches, no worries. Your approach makes such sense, and yet….

  8. I agree with the other comments – it would be a great pity to unravel what is a very fine piece of knitting. To make it into a pillow is a lovely idea. Or you might felt it in a hot wash in the washing machine, and then make it into a bag? Otherwise, I would consider taking it to a good charity shop (once I’d carefully noted the pattern etc). I find there are charity shops and charity shops – if they are good, they pretty soon get known for having quality goods. A good charity shop would value such a garment, and be sure to find it a good home before too long.

    • Dear kaydeerouge, yes, preserving the sweater in its entirety makes sense but I am not sure I could leave it to fate in such a way. Oh gosh, it is a tricky tricky decision.

  9. I would wear it over a long blouse or another sweater as a coat when it’s really cold. One of these days Dear Boy can wear it!! Don’t re-do it….. just treasure it.

    • Dear Elaine, Yes, I have thought of waiting for my son to grow into it but it was made for an 18 year old so I have another seven years to wait for that! I just retried it on for an afternoon and I really really don’t want to wear it. As you say, there is a treasuring component here. Thank you for considering the problem.

  10. I think the value of re-making lies in preserving materials and the cost and effort that went into producing those materials. So if you value a yarn that is knitted up in a sweater that you aren’t appreciating – too small, too big, too unflattering etc… – then the answer is simple: reclaim and reknit.

    But here it seems that what you love is the knitted garment and the gift of the labour of love for a son and the preservation of the work over time – and it is a beautiful piece of work! Maybe some kind of steak or grafting could turn this into a garment that fit better as suggested above.

    But I wonder if that wouldn’t lose something of the charm of the preserved knitted object – it’s over forty years old right? I wonder if there is a knitting or crafting museum project that might find it interesting so as to share it wider. Or even finding a way to hang it on the wall somehow – but then it stops being what it is too.

    What a conundrum…

    • Thank you Jemima, You really have understood the heart of the conundrum here. I am so glad I have shared the problem as it is helping me to understand what I truly value in the garment and the things that perhaps are not quite so important.

  11. How about cutting into the beautiful sweater and creating a pair of cushions? They would be seen and used as was the intention of the lady who knitted all those stitches. Some very special backing fabric could be found..

    Otherwise…perhaps deconstruct the sweater into pieces. Cut new pieces from the fabric to create a new garment that suits you better…in these days of steeks cutting into handknitted fabric is not such a challenge.

    After reading what I have written perhaps these ideas are too radical an approach to a much loved sweater…however, historically, garments have been changed and altered in order to retain the fabric which is so precious….

    Lots of ideas to think about ….

    • Dear Lydia, Thank you for your suggestions, which are not too radical at all! I think I am rather coming around to the idea of cushions which would preserve my friend’s wonderful stitches and be a useful item. Mmmm, still thinking about this.

  12. What a beautifully knitted sweater. Instead of unraveling, you could dye it and you could also give it a bit of felting to make it smaller and warmer.

    • Dear Marilyn, It is a lovely sweater isn’t it. Felting could work but it would create and even denser fabric and it is already a very thick sweater. I do like the dyeing option however. Thanks for playing!

  13. That jumper is a work of art, knit with love. I think frogging it would be a crime. Give it away to a good home, as you would a puppy from a litter that had too many for you to keep. Preferably give it to someone you see, at least occasionally, so you can enjoy the fact that it’s getting the wearing it deserves.

    • Dear Sophy, yes, something has definitely been preventing me from frogging it. Perhaps it does need a new home…I could think about potential recipients and see if it feels right. Thank you.

  14. Having something from a dear elder is quite a gift. The sweater is fantastic and I like what others here are saying. this last summer I spent time at the summer house that now belongs to a brother and was the house my parents died in. My brother was struggling with making changes and putting and giving away objects that meant something to my parents. I think it helps to imagine how you want the next generation to handle your possessions or objects you’ve made. I am guessingmy parents would not want their things to become a heavy burden to my brother. I remember my mother telling me to let go of the clothes she made for my children (she suggested throwing them out). She asked me why I wanted them taking up room in the attic? Like you, I couldn’t always let go because I like having the physical representation of my mom’s creative life.

    I don’t know if I could unravel this sweater but I think considering what might make it usable for you is very worthwhile. Unraveling cuffs and making them 3/4 sleeves? Dyeing with local plants? Changing the neckline? I look forward to reading what you decide . . .

    • Dear Peg, I think you are quite right, it is in the relationship I had with my friend that the value of the sweater lies and in the tangible evidence of her labour and skill. Thank you for sharing your experience, it helps me work through what I might do.

  15. So many excellent suggestions. I would only add that if you give it away, it be to someone who will be able to care for it – hand washing etc. I do think dyeing might help.

    • I do agree Frith, If it were to be given away, it would need to be to a wool lover who was prepared to maintain it. That narrows the field rather a lot!

  16. What a dilemma! It’s a truly beautiful jumper which has been lovingly cared for. There are many great suggestions already and each one, whichever side it is on, has merits.

    I share your questions…At what point should a thing be preserved in its original state at all costs, when such preservation would remove its original purpose – to be worn and to provide warmth? At what point does the memory and sentimentality of a thing become more important than its utility?
    I can see the arguments both ways, though I tend to fall more on the side of valuing practicality and continuing to use something. I think of historical textiles such as quilts, made from clothes once the clothes themselves were worn out. The memory of the original handmade item is retained in the cloth of the quilt, while continuing to be useful to its owner.

    I think this is one of those situations where there is no universally right answer, and all you can do is make the decision that feels right to you. Given how much thought and consideration you put into it, I am sure whatever decision you make will honour the work of your dear friend.

    • Dear Lauren, what a perfect summary comment! And yes, my intellect tells me to repurpose the sweater in some way, keep it being useful but sentiment is a powerful thing. Stories make our garments have meaning but sometimes they can change the path of a garment till it is not a useful garment any longer. Thank for such a considered response.

  17. I love the idea of cushions. I have a fisherman’s sweater that I knit for my father, who died eighteen years ago. If I ever get around to it I will unstitch the side and shoulder seams and underarm seams and full the pieces into a stable fabric. I’ll dye the fabric an indigo shade then cut and sew the fabric into a simple jacket. I may unravel the ribbing before fulling and dye the yarn the same color, then knit an i-cord for edge binding. The resulting piece will be lovely but will be way too warm for a middle Georgia winter, lol.

    • Dear Susan, yes, cushions seem to preserve the fabric well. Your plans sound decisive and very doable, hopefully I can get clear about my direction soon!

  18. I truly understand your dilemma. However, you have made it clear that resizing, dyeing or other ‘hacks’ are not going to make this less of an albatross garment.

    Here is what I would do, and I repurpose “precious” garments often, altho most of them are not knitted. First, photograph the sweater in glorious. color (or send it to an artist/photographer to take a professional “portrait” of it.) You could then frame and hang the photo in a place that you will pass often in your house and it will make you smile. You might also want to document the stitches and patterns in the sweater for posterity (or for its new incarnation).

    Second, FROG the sweater, wash the yarn and plan a glorious new “phoenix sweater” that you will knit with this beloved yarn. If it needs to be a new color, dye the yarn. If your friend had a favorite color that you both like, that is a good choice for the dye job.

    As you knit the new creation, you can think about your friend, kind of like a meditation or prayer. Knowing that someone you loved handled every inch of the fiber before you would be a happy way to remember her.

    • Dear Judy, i really love your sweater portait idea. That is a first place to start. When i first posted, i had thought i was heading to frogging but now i am not so sure.

  19. Could it be made into a jacket? carefully run two separate threads down the front through the stitch loops, hand sew a silk twill facing ribbon on each side of the two threads then carefully snip the centre knitted loops, turn to the inside and finish off, you can now either put in a zipper or button loops. I hope this will help,but please keep the sweater it is such a work of art

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