I had a bit of a crisis. Several crises. First there was the unedifying broadband crisis, which I won’t go into here having blogged about it elsewhere and also having no desire to revisit the experience, then there was the dead MacBook crisis (it’s old, but was my back-up machine), and then there was the ‘I’ve just finished a sweater and where on earth is it going to go?’ crisis.
This last one meant I had to plumb the depths of the old blanket box in which I keep knitwear. And when I say depths, I mean depths. I seldom get to the bottom. But this was a successful rootle, a real voyage of discovery, because I found the first complicated thing I ever knitted. And astonishingly, it had a pattern with it.
I think it must have been about 1985, or maybe earlier. I’m amazed the photocopy has lasted. The cardigan is unfortunately in something with a lot of acrylic in it (well, I was young, broke and in love with everything Phildar and Pingouin, including Phildar needles, which I still adore).
As a result it’s quite flat, and you can see where there’s only a single strand of wool quite clearly. I don’t really recall wearing it a lot, but somebody has been doing so and it can only have been moi. It has about as much life in it now as a piece of old cabbage and flops about like something which has been dead for some time, but I can’t get rid of it. I swear I remember every stitch, with my very-skilled-knitter flatmate telling me I would never finish it because I wasn’t coordinated enough. Nah nah na-na nah.
Then I found another cardigan with associated pattern. I really am not usually this organised, honestly, except with work where I’ve been accused of having OCD (all editors do, darling). This is in the thrilling style of the late 1980s (love that hat),
and though it still fits, there is no way I would wear it, even though I was sensible enough to avoid doing the glittery embroidery. But I liked the yarn then – acrylic again, but of course – and I’m slightly ashamed to say that I still do.
Well, I like the colour, with the turquoise and yellows. The actual yarn is eeeeeuuch. Was there no real wool about then? Or was I playing the impoverished student? Were people who went out and chose acrylic yarns of surpassing horror accepted as normal members of society, rather like those who applied Artex to ceilings?
Some time in the 1990s I came almost to my senses, but failed to upgrade my patterns. I went back and revisited one or two which had fallen apart due to being knitted out of old inner tube and artificial chemicals. But I bought better-quality yarn – you know, only partly inner tube. Maybe I was weaning myself off something gradually, possibly the exposure to unsafe levels of nastiness. I loved this cardigan deeply, knitted it in what my own mother described as ‘another attractive shade of shite, I see’ and wore it until it pilled so much that it disintegrated. (I’ve often lived in the sort of places where seriously big knitwear is a substitute for central heating. Or any heating.)
And so I reknitted it relatively recently, this time choosing some rather delicious tweedy Aran weight yarn from my stash, 100% local wool, from the much-missed Hunters of Brora which I bought just before they went out of business.
It’s lovely, lovely yarn. It’s nubbly and soft and full of depth. It’s essentially grey, a natural grey, with some black and white and charcoal. I bought it on the cone from the mill, skeined it and washed it and hung it out to dry outside the croft. It even smells right; there’s still a bit of lanolin left. It’s warm – boy, is it warm – and snuggly and reminds me of Sutherland and going down to the ceilidh on Tuesday evenings and watching the wild goats and enjoying a wee dram with the neighbours, sitting outside on summer evenings. In short, it means something.
But there’s a problem.
It’s not the same.
I don’t know what the difficulty is. Maybe it’s just too heavy? Maybe I miss the stitch definition you get with a plain as opposed to a tweedy yarn? Or maybe I haven’t really weaned myself off that heady cocktail of inner tube and fleece? No, that really cannot be the case… and now I’m wondering what embarrassing secrets everyone else has lurking at the bottom of their knitting stores. I cannot be alone in this. Please.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ve found anywhere to put the new sweater. I think I need a new blanket box.