There’s one thing about being laid up with a sprained ankle over the holidays (which have dragged into the first week of the new year): out come the knitting needles. I’ve been mad about knitting since I taught myself to knit and crochet when I was young. I recall distinctly when I put down my knitting needles. It was in 1985 and I had just finished this sweater.

Hand Knit Sweater by Kaye Kittrell

1985 Angora Hand Knit Sweater with Vintage Buttons ©Kaye Kittrell

I could count on one hand the number of times I have worn this sweater. I sewed a pair of taupe wool gabardine culottes (which are WAY too small now), and bought some cool low-heeled taupe shoes on Park Avenue. I used to love to shoe shop in the shoe stores on Park and Lexington in the ’80’s. The buttons are vintage from my one and only favorite button store, Tender Buttons on 62nd (seen in “Julia & Julia” as a hat shop, can you spot it?), just off Lexington Avenue, up from Bloomingdales (which I didn’t like at all). Sometime I’ll do a post on my button collection.

I put down my needles in frustration over the hours I was spending knitting. (This sweater took a lot of time, PLAID?? What was I thinking?) I could sew a whole outfit in much less time than knitting a sweater, and much easier to correct mistakes. I made all my clothes in New York, because I wanted to wear designer fashions and I couldn’t afford to buy them. At the time, there were very few types of yarns and needles available (I was using straight needles back then, I only use circular now), so it wasn’t a great loss.

When one son entered the local Waldorf kindergarten in 2000 (a Rudolf Steiner school – Steiner originated biodynamic farming and very different educational concepts), I was advised by his teacher to start knitting again, that it would be good for him to see me working with handcrafts, since that is a big part of their early childhood curriculum. That’s all it took. I had not knitted in 15 years, and I started with a simple scarf. While I was MIA from the knitting world, it had gone through a revolution, and there is no sign of it slowing down. I found a yarn store I liked, and I was off to the races. I documented each item – scarf, hat, purse, animal, shawl, and of course sweaters, in this book – which I kept until I stopped shooting film in my point and shoot camera in 2006. I just counted 62 items. A sculpture I made in college stood in as a mannequin.

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My hand knits are collected in this album from 2000 to 2006 ©Kaye Kittrell

These two were my only animals and I am particularly fond of them. I knitted these from left-over bits of wool, and stuffed with sheep’s wool, so they smelled very organic for years!

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Anteater & Elephant Wool Hand Knits ©Kaye Kittrell

I made so many scarves, I burned out, and settled on sweaters. Since I have always sewn, finishing a sweater (sewing all the knitted pieces together at the end) has always been a source of pride. I was particularly proud of the construction of this sweater I made a few years ago. I think I’ve worn it twice.

Red sweater by Kaye Kittrell

Red Hand Knit Summer Sweater ©Kaye Kittrell

I fell in love with Rowan yarns and patterns and joined Rowan and started receiving their pattern books and bought their yarns almost exclusively. I changed knitting stores when my older son went to 7th grade at Brentwood School in 2003. Jennifer Knits is just across from the campus in Brentwood, and I always hit her annual sales (starting today!), and racked up enough yarn to keep me knitting two sweaters a year for the next ten years. Which brings me to the seriously flawed orange sweater.

Seriously-flawed kand knit angora sweater ©Kaye Kittrell

Seriously-flawed Hand Knit Angora Sweater ©Kaye Kittrell

I’ve knitted three red-orange sweaters for summer, but this is my first winter sweater. I had bought the yarn on sale, which is always a risk, because you are buying an amount of yarn on sale, with no pattern to go with it. Jennifer offers a service to design you a pattern for yarn you buy at the store, but I often get a hankering to knit at night when the store is closed. I started this sweater a year ago, and had not touched it since I started my garden and Late Bloomer. Needing to elevate my ankle made me think to pull out the needles. I usually try to knit something that uses all the yarn. In this case, I kept changing the idea of the sweater till I had just a small ball left. Trouble was, the sleeves were too narrow at the top. I felt very clever knitting two long diamond pieces to add under the armpits. It took three nights to open up the seams, and knit and reknit these pieces till I had used all but about three feet of yarn, enough to close up the seems. The third night, I managed to get it all sewed up and seams finished off inside with all the yarn ends sewn in. Once angora yarn ends are sewn in, you will never get them out without cutting them off. Anyway, I felt this rush of a sense of achievement, folded up the sweater and went to bed. I had been working on finishing this sweater for three straight nights, so I’d had a lot of time to consider how I was doing it. But, almost the moment I laid down to bed, and relaxed my body, it hit me like a bolt that I had sewn in the diamonds the wrong way! That they had NOT eased the tightness of the sleeve seam after all! I was awake for two hours debating whether to try and correct it. But, I had no yarn, and chances were that I would cut a loop somewhere that was part of a piece and not the seam yarn and I would have a hole I could not repair. Being the perfectionist that I am (in all things except keeping my office neat), I couldn’t sleep knowing I would probably never wear it unless I tried to rip it open. I decided to think about it for a couple of days, and I knitted up a sweater from some chunky 3 ply alpaca wool that I’d had for years. I used every last bit of yarn and ran out without doing the collar! I wasted hours online trying to find the yarn, so it’s either finish it off without a collar, or rip the whole thing out and start over. The moral of this story is, unless you are an expert knitter (and I am not), don’t start a sweater without a pattern and all the yarn you will need.

Now, they say, in knitting, if someone standing five feet away from you cannot see a mistake, you leave it alone. But, I will know about the red-orange sweater. And likely, it will not be worn much more than the rest of the 26 I have knitted. And that’s way more than you probably wanted to know about my knitting! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! – Kaye