Two Decades in the Making

By Megan Goodacre

Two Decades in the Making

I recently worked with a knitter who finished a sweater in two days. (She attributes her accomplishment to a very long train ride.) But how about a sweater that gets finished in two decades?

Back in the fall of 2011, I blogged about some of my unfinished knitting that my mom had held on to for me. It was a labour-intensive cardigan front, Aran-style with moss stitch and cable panels. As a twenty-something with a short attention span, I abandoned the knitting and the yarn. This would have been in 1993. I don't remember knitting all those cables, but I vaguely remember not being able to visualize ever finishing it. I was, and still am, quite ruthless about moving on.

Mom held on to the knitting and the yarn. And now with local wool being quite en vogue (for example, look at the success of Quince & Co and Brooklyn Tweed), she noticed that this twenty-year old piece of knitting would fit right in. And the decision was made: she would finish the sweater.

The yarn: Good old 100% Canadian wool from Briggs and Little. Their labels have changed a bit since I bought the yarn, but I think the equivalent is Regal in Light Brown. I used to overdye Briggs and Little, but I can't remember if I overdyed this one or not.

You used to be able to buy at wholesale pricing from Briggs with a minimum order, and it would come in a burlap sack, smelling of sheep. The wool is very pretty, but quite rustic and rough, although it does soften with washing. But roughness aside, the great thing about this kind of wool is that it lasts and doesn't change. It doesn't pill or fade or disappoint. Most of this colourwork jacket (another orphan rescued by mom) was Briggs, and it looks the same now as it has for years.

The pattern: 99% mom's invention. Originally, I started the jacket without any pattern. Back in those carefree days before I knew about shaping or ssk or seamless sweaters or size grading, I would have cast on enough for 40 inches divided by 4 and figured it out as I went. Mom carried on for me, building and documenting an actual pattern. She added the much-needed details to my poorly-conceived knitting: pockets, cuffs, belt, button bands. Those details give it a tailored look. I also believe that planning and details help you to carry on in a big knitting project; you know where you're going, so you're more likely to finish. It's like running a marathon (which I have never done, but I have done a half-marathon, so I'm half-qualified to make this analogy); having a marker for every kilometre doesn't make the race shorter but it gives you small bite-size tasks to accomplish and signal that you're making progress.

You can read a little more about the project on Ravelry here.

Cabled Wool Knitted Jacket