A little more than a cardigan

September 4, 2019

One of the most useful cardigans I ever knitted was this one here.

Knit from yarn I found at an op (charity) shop it served me well for six years, so well, I wore it down. I darned and redarned the elbows but eventually there was little left to work with and so I decided to replace it.

I saved the buttons and knit this one using Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit software. Using her system, I was able to design my own cardigan from a large set of options and replicate what I liked best about the old cardigan. I chose three quarter length sleeves, a cropped waist, set in sleeves, a v-neck, a close hourglass fit and even the same depth to ribbing bands.

I used a local-to-me farm yarn from Fairfield Finns, a Finnsheep sportsweight grown near Bacchus Marsh and processed in New Zealand. The colour is a dark brick red and has been as surprisingly versatile as the teal blue of my first cardigan.

The decorative band was from the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible and I just added this as I knit from Custom Fit pattern.

I am very pleased with the result. It is a supremely useful cardigan, fits exceptionally well and the Finnsheep is next-to-the-skin soft albeit a little pilly which you can see in the pic. Hopefully that will resolve in the next few months as those stray fibres work their way loose.

However, ever since I read Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu (2018), I feel more circumspect when knitting or spinning with Australian yarn. Using the first hand accounts of explorers and pastoralists, Dark Emu chronicles the vast, complex farming systems First Nations people had in place prior to European colonisation. Pascoe writes compellingly of how sheep were the cutting edge of the occupation, travelling ahead of the colonisers, eating and destroying the farmed crops of the First Nations such as the murnong, (yam daisies) the starchy staple food of the local people right down to the roots so they could not regrow, leaving severe food shortages in their wake. This made it easier for the colonisers to subdue a resistant but starving people, steal land with government approval and displace the Traditional Owners with vast sheep runs.

It gives me pause then, to think of the complex history that I draw upon when I knit from local sources. Our nostalgic ideas about ourselves as a nation built on the sheep’s back are shaken when sheep are seen as one of the tools of colonisation. Sheep growing in Australia is part of the story of colonisation. Knitting and spinning are enmeshed also and it makes me part of the story. It is a story that didn’t just happen in the past, it is a story that is still unfolding. Until Indigenous Australians are represented in the constitution and have full self determination, we are still living in colonial times. If you’d like to read more about this idea, I recommend Sarah Maddison’s The Colonial Fantasy: Why White Australia Can’t Solve Black Problems (2019).

If this gets you thinking too, you might be interested in a call for support being made by the Djab Wurrung women to resist the removal of sacred birthing trees by Vic Roads for a freeway extension in Ararat in Western Victoria. Some trees have recently been saved but there are other significant trees that are still endangered by road works. You can read an article in The Guardian, find out more and donate on the Djab Wurrung Heritage Protection Embassy site or attend a rally at Parliament House in Melbourne next Tuesday September 10th.

I would also like to thank every single one of you who left a comment on my post last week. I wasn’t sure if any one would still be out there after such a time away but your support, encouragement and welcome was incredibly heartening. I haven’t managed personal replies this time but I hope to over the next weeks. You are extraordinarily kind to me, thank you.