Springtime in Philadelphia is my favorite time of year. When else do you get to run through a sun-filled field of violets and marsh marigolds while wearing your newly finished handknits? It’s a magical time before all the little flowers get mown down in May. The weather can still be in the 40s during the day, but it also might be 70, and either way you’ll be glad you brought a sweater wherever you’re headed.
Last week our family attended a family work-party at our children’s school and my daughter Gilda got the opportunity to wear two of her recently requested hand knits. Earlier this winter she watched me knitting April’s Year of Bulky Hats design, Ivy Hill. She asked me for one in her favorite color, yellow. Not wanting to recalculate the stitch pattern, or think about re-writing any part of it, I decided to try it in the worsted weight Germantown and see what happened. I keep a basket in my living room with one skein of every color of Germantown, and she picked Yellow 735: A beautiful, vibrant buttercup yellow. I did not follow the advice we so often espouse, and did not swatch, and instead crossed my fingers, grabbed a pair of size 7 needles, and cast on. I followed the instructions for the Bulky hat to the letter, and Lady Luck or the knitting goddesses were on my side. It turned out PERFECTLY!
Her cardigan is also knit using Germantown, in Lilac 536. She picked this yarn out last year, and I half-heartedly knit some ribbing…and then it lingered at the bottom of the basket for a while. I didn’t have a pattern in mind, as I was sort of swatching as I knit the ribbing, hoping inspiration would strike, and using it as a way to mull over where I’d go from there.
Fast-forward to early March this year. There is nothing more motivating than your child finding and bringing you the partially knit item you started for them a year ago (or more) and asking you when it would be done. Time to get to work! We revisited the design brief, and she filled me in on the requirements: Buttons, no pockets, a long collar (what did that even mean?), no hood. I got back to work in earnest. I quickly finished the back and the fronts, making it up as I went. There was no pattern, and I wrote nothing down. I cast on what seemed like a “good” amount of stitches, and would occasionally make her hold her arm out, or let me measure the distance between her shoulders. With very minimal ripping and re-knitting (mostly the neck shaping for her “long collar”) I got all the pieces knit.
I have to confess, this is absolutely my favorite way to knit. No pattern. No need to take notes. No need to write the pattern for anyone else. I think it makes me feel connected with my old knitting lady ancestors who surely had to just wing it and figure it out. I’ve followed 150-year-old knitting patterns. They leave a lot to imagination.
Let’s pretend for a moment this blog is momentarily a hearth and home magazine pattern from sometime in the 1800s.
Here is the pattern:
Use a thick wool and a good number of stitches to accommodate a young girl.
Knit all pieces to the desired length in stocking stitch.
Finish all pieces with a wide rib and long collar.
Back to the present, and real talk here guys. I did not know that the skein of lilac lingering in my basket did not match the dyelot of the others I brought home last year. Can you tell? Oh, yes, most definitely. Do I care? No, not one bit. (And she – so far – hasn’t noticed).
Was I surprised when she asked for red buttons? Yes. I did think it was an…unconventional choice! but I actually think they look stunning. She certainly has an eye for fashion, even if she doesn’t yet have an eye for matching dyelots. She takes after her mother, after all.